MUMBAI: Japanese major Sony Corp, which owns Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) is likely to create a new joint venture with Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries-owned TV18 Broadcast, which will house all the entertainment assets of both the companies, two people with direct knowledge of the development told ET.
Sony will own a majority 51% stake in the proposed JV, while TV18 will own the remaining 49%. As part of the deal, the two companies will transfer 100% of SPN, 51% of TV18’s share in Viacom18 (US entertainment conglomerate Viacom Inc owns 49% in Viacom18) and 100% of Jio Studios business to the new entity, one of the sources said. He added that the basic framework is ready and talks are on with Viacom Inc on structure of the deal.
If the deal fructifies, the combined entity will own 63 channels, two video streaming services (Voot and Sony LIV), four film studios, and two digital content studios, making it an entertainment behemoth with the largest share of voice among the networks in India. “While there were rumours about Sony looking at acquiring stake in Relianceowned Viacom18, the talks were on for a much larger partnership,” said second source close to the development.
Incidentally, Sony’s top brass, including CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, and Mike Hopkins, chairman of Sony Pictures Television (SPT), are scheduled to visit Mumbai on December 9.
A few senior officials from the Japanese major’s US office are expected to arrive earlier.
“Sony’ India entertainment business is doing very well and this trip by Mike and Mr Yoshida was long planned. Mike had come to India two years back also and they had met with Mukesh Ambani. While discussions at that time were very different, a possibility of partnership was discussed then for the first time,” a second person close to the situation told ET.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that Sony was in talks to acquire a stake in the Indian television network controlled by Mukesh Ambani. “Consolidation is good for any industry and if this deals happens, it will straight away put the combined entity among the top two players,” said Rohit Dokania, senior VP – research at IDFC Securities.
“There are lot of synergies. Sony does not have a strong regional portfolio, whereas Viacom18 has a reasonably strong regional play. Viacom18 doesn’t have sports, while SPN has a strong sports portfolio. Only on the Hindi GEC front, how they will find balance is something that needs to be seen.”
Viacom18 posted a net profit of Rs 81 crore on a revenue of Rs 3,667 crore in the last fiscal. SPN, on the other hand, posted a net profit of —346 crore on a revenue of Rs 6,224 crore.
Together, the combined entity will have very strong presence across Hindi general entertainment, kids, Hindi movies, and sports. Sony and Viacom18 complement each other in many genres. Sony is weak in terms of regional, kids and youth entertainment, whereas Viacom18 doesn’t have a sports or infotainment business.
As per BARC India data for last four weeks, in terms of all India viewership (excluding news) Star India was leading with 20% share, followed by Zee Entertainment Enterprises (18%), where as Viacom18 and SPN both had a market share of 9% each. Together the combined entity will have 18-20% share.