After months of discussions and negotiations, Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) is possibly going to sign a merger with Viacom18 by next week.
Sources close to the development reveal that three parties have agreed on the deal which is close to being finalised. Last two weeks have seen key developments as stakeholders from Network18, Viacom and Sony discussed ownership and rights. (Viacom18 is a 51:49 partnership between Reliance owned Network18 and US based Viacom)
Reports suggest that Sony will own the maximum stake in the deal with Viacom18, enabling it to emerge as a key player in the Indian general entertainment channels (GEC) space, a tougher competition to Disney-Star.
The initial news of this merger came in November 2019 and was then spearheaded by SPN chairman Mike Hopkins. The deal fell through when he left Sony and joined Amazon Prime Video.
After emphasising on building brand Jio throughout the pandemic for mass consumption, Mukesh Ambani owned Network18 is now back on finalising the agreement with SPN. The deal would only include Viacom’s entertainment business, and Reliance would continue to own the news channels.
As per Economic Times report, SPN, Viacom and Network18 will be a single entity post the deal and with 10,000 crore revenue and 2700 employees. Post merger, it is going to own 77 TV channels, OTT platforms- VOOT and Sony LIV, three film studios (including Jio Studios) and two digital content studios.
According to industry reports, Star Plus and Star Bharat have been receiving less viewership since 2019, while Viacom’s Colors has been doing well in urban and rural markets. SET (Sony Entertainment Television) on the other hand is performing well in urban markets. The GRP (gross rating point) of Sony and SAB together is much more than Star Plus and Star Bharat and if Colors is added to the portfolio, the pie will naturally get bigger.
It’s still not revealed which party will regulate the kids channels – Viacom18 owned Nickelodeon and Sonic and SPN owned Sony YAY!