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Sony Pictures Networks India to merge with Zee Entertainment Enterprises

Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) and Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEE) have agreed to merge to create a new Indian media giant.

Punit Goenka

The merged entity will include more than 75 linear TV networks, digital assets, production operations, programme libraries and two streaming platforms.

With strengths in scripted, factual and sports programming, the company will go up against rivals such as The Walt Disney Company’s Hotstar as well as local players in India in the fight for viewers and subscribers.

The combined entity will be nearly 51% owned by SPNI, an indirect subsidiary of US-based Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), part of Japanese conglomerate Sony.

It will be led by ZEE CEO Punit Goenka as MD and CEO after a 90-day due diligence period. The closing of the transaction is subject to certain customary conditions, including regulatory, shareholder and third-party approvals.

The new company will be publicly listed in India. It has already targeted “sharper content creation across platforms,” as well as strengthening its footprint in digital and bidding for media rights in the fast-growing sports landscape.

The majority of the board of directors of the combined company will be nominated by the Sony Group and will include NP Singh, the current MD and CEO of SPNI.

On closing, Singh will assume a broader executive position at SPE as chairman of Sony Pictures India, reporting to Ravi Ahuja, SPE’s chairman of global television studios and corporate development.

Under the stewardship of the Sony Group, a global leader in consumer technologies, gaming and entertainment, the combined company is expected to be able to better compete with the world’s largest streaming players.

Goenka said: “It is a significant milestone for all of us as two leading media and entertainment companies join hands to drive the next era of entertainment filled with immense opportunities. The combined company will create a comprehensive entertainment business, enabling us to serve our consumers with wider content choices across platforms.

“This merger presents a significant opportunity to jointly take the businesses to the next level and drive substantial growth in the global arena.”

Ahuja added: “Today marks an important step in our efforts to bring together some of the strongest leadership teams, content creators and film libraries in the media business to create extraordinary entertainment and value for Indian consumers.

SPE was advised on the transaction by Morgan Stanley, KPMG Corporate Finance and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. ZEE was advised by KPMG, JP Morgan, Trilegal and Boston Consulting Group.

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