New Delhi, Dec 22 (EFE).- Sony’s Indian subsidiary and Zee TV, two major television networks in the country, have agreed to merge and create a mega entertainment platform amid stiff competition from global streaming channels, the companies said Wednesday.
“(We) have signed definitive agreements to merge ZeeL with and into SPNI (Sony Pictures Networks India) and combine (our) linear networks, digital assets, production operations and program libraries,” the two TV networks said in a joint statement.
The statement said SPNI would have a cash balance of $1.5 billion at the closing of the deal, including through infusion by the current shareholders of Sony Pictures and the founders of Zee.
The merger would “enable the combined company to drive sharper content creation across platforms, strengthen its footprint in the rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, bid for media rights in the fast-growing sports landscape and pursue other growth opportunities,” the statement said.
SPNI is an indirect subsidiary of Sony Pictures.
Under the agreement, Sony will own the majority stake, or 50.86 percent of the shares, of the new combined company, while the founders of Zee will control 3.99 percent.
The shareholders of the Indian media conglomerate will have the remaining 45.15 percent.
“The combined company should be well-positioned to meet the growing consumer demand for premium content across entertainment touchpoints and platforms,” they said.
“The seamless blend of rich expertise in content creation, deep consumer insights, and success across entertainment genres is expected to drive the combined company’s ability to accrue higher shareholder value.”
The statement expressed hope that “under the stewardship of the Sony Group, a global leader in consumer technologies, gaming, and entertainment, the combined company (will) be able to better compete with the world’s largest streaming players.”
Zee’s head Punit Goenka will be appointed CEO of the merged entity that would be listed on the India stock exchange.
“It is a significant milestone for all of us, as the two leading media and entertainment companies join hands to drive the next era of entertainment filled with immense opportunities.”
He said the merger presented a significant opportunity to jointly take the business to the next level and drive substantial growth in the global arena.
The Sony group will appoint most of the board members of the merged company, including current SPNI CEO NP Singh as chairman of Sony Pictures India.
“This merger will create a company that is best in class and will redefine the contours of the media and entertainment industry,” Singh said.
Sony and Zee began the merger negotiations in September.
The Japanese headquartered entertainment giant said the merger would be completed in the current fiscal year that ends on Mar.31, 2022.
The deal is subject to some regulatory approvals.
SPNI has several channels including Sony Entertainment Television, SonyLIV – the digital entertainment platform; and Studio NEXT, the independent production venture for original content and IPs for TV and digital media.
SPNI reaches out to over 700 million viewers in India and is available in 167 countries.