Kenichiro Yoshida, Chief Executive Officer of Sony, said the company is expecting to close the Zee-Sony merger in the first half of this fiscal year. Yoshida was speaking at Sony’s annual global corporate strategy meeting held on Thursday.
The merger of Puneet Goenka’s entertainment company, Zee Entertainment Enterprises, with Sony’s India arm, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), was announced in 2021. After a long legal battle with Zee’s shareholders, the merger received the CCI’s approval in 2022. Although both companies should be ironing out the regular due diligence issue, the merger could be experiences another major hurdle, as a recent order by the Securities and and Exchange Board of India against one of the companies owned by Essel Group, could prevent the merger from getting approved by the National Company Law Tribunal.
The counsel representing the National Stock Exchange and Bombay Stock exchange brought SEBI’s April 25 notice to NCLT’s attention last week, and experts note this could be the next big test for the Zee-Sony merger.
The senior management at Sony has the following to say on the merger. SPNI CEO and MD, NP Singh, who was also in attendance at the Thursday event, said: “In 2021, we announced a partnership to merge Zee into SPNI, which upon closing, will enable us to expand our content creation and strengthen our connection with diverse communities within India. The closing of the transaction is subject to regulatory approvals.”
At the corporate strategy event, Singh also noted that SonyLIV, the video streaming platform operated by Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), has clocked a paid subscriber base of 33.3 million globally, including distributor partnerships, with over 40,000 hours of content across eight languages. Industry experts had estimated the count to be 26 million last year.
Singh had earlier touted Sony as the only media company with a profitable digital operation. SonyLIV’s paid subscriber base had surged from 700,000 in early 2020, on the back of a string of hits, now commanding an annual average revenue per user of ₹573.
Singh added that SPNI which has been present in India for 28 years, operates 26 television channels, reaching 700 million viewers across 167 countries. It is known for international formats such as Shark Tank, Indian Idol and MasterChef besides the longest-running Indian sitcom with over 3,500 episodes referring to Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah.
“SPNI has made significant investments in sports including key cricket properties, UEFA (an annual club association football competition organised by the Union of European Football Associations and contested by top-division European clubs) tournaments, World Wrestling Entertainment and Grand Slam Tennis, to name a few,” Singh added.