Sony Pictures Networks India Private Limited and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. on Wednesday announced that they have signed definitive agreements to merge ZEEL with and into SPNI and combine their linear TV networks, digital assets, production operations and program libraries.

The merged company will retain Zee’s stock market listing in India. But Sony will provide a large cash injection and control a majority share stake of close to 51%. The agreement is subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals.

The move follows years of corporate turbulence at both companies and comes at a time when the massive Indian television landscape is being transformed by vastly wider access to broadband internet and the incursion of streaming video services.

Sony Pictures Networks India has long been an important figure in the Indian television landscape, thanks to its generalist TV channel Sony Entertainment Television which was launched in 1995. But it is understood that SPNI has previously been frustrated in its attempts to either sell off the business or expand it to a larger scale. It currently consists of 26 TV channels, a film production and distribution unit and the widely-viewed streaming platform SonyLIV.

ZEEL was long controlled by the Essel Group. But Essel has been burdened by its own $2.4 billion debts and frustrated by its inability to finance the expansion of ZEEL, which operates 66 linear television channels across 171 countries and is attempting to build the reach of its streaming platform, Zee5, around the world.

More to follow.

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