#SonyZee Merger in ~8 months, Cricket rights & OTT key to future

23 Dec,2021



By Our Staff


As most of the paperwork has been completed with the two parties having signed a definitive agreement, all eyes are now on the regulatory approvals. The 75 per cent shareholder approval is being given much importance, given the problems that Invesco had with the Zee promoters. But that we hear isn’t much of a problem. Invesco wants maximum bang for its invested buck, and is not known to be a predatory investor. Either in India or the rest of the world.


However, it must be noted that while the Zee-Sony merger is being called a done deal, there have been a few instances when the final closure hasn’t happened. The much touted Publicis-Omincom merger, for instance, fell through. In India too, some like HDFC and Max Life, RCom-Aircel, Snapdeal-Flipkart and IDFC-Shriram Finance are said to have failed at the ‘due diligence’ or a variety of circumstances, most often dubbed ‘unforeseen’.


But both Zee and Sony have been wanting to get this done, with each other and with others. Given that it’s been discussed in their own offices for a while, care would’ve been taken to ensure their books and operations are merger-ready.


A lot is being said about what the merger and what it will mean. Other than it becoming a behemoth and the biggest broadcast conglomerate in the currently, there is a great amount of soul searching that the combined entity needs to be done.


01. Other than the Sony Sab in the Tier 2 (or shall we say 1A), none of the general entertainment channels are #1 the pack.

02. The sports channels have some good properties, but without IPL and the various India cricket matches, it doesn’t have the desired clout

03. Both Sony Liv and Zee 5 have some good content, but Disney+Hotstar among the Indian entities, and Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are bigger. Plus there’s Voot that’s getting into sports and could emerge as a significant player. It’s gambit for Bigg Boss, for instance, was significant. Perhaps a merger of Zee5 and SonyLiv will be a good idea

04. The strength of Zee has been in its regional play, but its mainstay Marathi offering has taken a beating in ratings. The others are good, and there is an urgent need to consolidate that franchise

05. The studio business is good and strong, but the likes of an Endemol, Balaji and now even Applause are doing some great, buzzy work


In the light of the above, and some exceptional talent that both organisations have, there is a clear advantage of a merged entity.


One of the factors discussed in the run-up to the agreement signing on Tuesday was the factor that Zee will be reduced to a minority shareholder, even as Punit Goenka will be the boss. Founder and chairman emeritus Subhash Chandra is known to never be a silent member in the M&E space. He is sure to spring back to something significant soon with a few of his other M&E interests. Also, what about the charges that Invesco had made about Zee and its governance. If indeed they are incorrect as Zee has said, will the conglomerate file a defamation suit against it? Or will there be a settlement.


All eyes are clearly on the merger happening sooner that. Most in the A&M&E arena have welcomed the move.


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