Sony Pictures Networks India & Zee Entertainment Complete Merger; Combined Entity Fit To Take On Netflix And Disney

Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) and Zee Entertainment have completed their merger, creating a combined entity led by Zee CEO Punit Goenka fit to take on the U.S. streaming giants in the nation.

News of the merger first emerged in late September when the two parties entered into an exclusive non-binding term sheet to bring together their linear networks, digital assets, production operations and program libraries.

The deal required a 90 day period for regulatory third-party approvals to clear, which completed yesterday (December 21).

The new entity, which is publicly listed and will be led by Goenka, stands to overtake Disney’s Star India as the country’s biggest player, according to Reuters, bringing together 75 news, entertainment, sports and movie channels including Sony Max, Zee TV and streamers such as ZEE5 Global. Goenka had been under pressure at Zee amidst calls for a management reshuffle, according to reports.

The business will be majority owned (51%) by SPNI, with Zee’s founders taking 3.99%. SPNI will have a cash balance of $1.5BN at deal close to invest in enhancing the combined company’s digital platforms across technology and content, while giving it the finance to bid for major sports rights.

Most of the combined company’s board will be nominated by the Sony Group and include current SPNI CEO N.P. Singh as chairman of Sony Pictures India, a division of SPNI parent Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE).

The move comes as the competition for Indian eyeballs ramps up. In a surprise move, Netflix last week significantly lowered the cost of subscriptions in the country, slashing the basic plan by 60% to just $2.62 per month.

At the same time, ZEE5 Global struck an agreement with local content studio Applause Entertainment that will see the latter create multiple Hindi shows for the streamer as ZEE5 originals.

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