The merger of Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) and Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) is expected to be completed by September 2023, according to Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony Corp CEO.
Yoshida made the announcement during an annual meeting of the company, as per media reports.
Yoshida stated that Sony's merger with ZEEL is expected to occur "by the end of the first half of this fiscal year". He further stated that the Indian media and entertainment market holds significant potential for rapid growth due to the nation's large population and creative talent.
Yoshida also said that half of India's population consists of individuals under 30, which presents huge opportunities in areas like gaming and anime.
Under the long-term vision of expanding the number of people directly connected to the Sony Group to 1 billion people, Yoshida said, "I would like for us to continue delivering Kando (Japanese word for emotion) in specific areas such as anime, games, and in India, and make use of them in our creations."
He asserted that Sony has been working to spread 'Kando' in India since the 1980s with Sony India, which leads the electronics business, "providing products which create and deliver Kando".
Moreover, he said, Sony Music Entertainment India, which holds more than 20% market share in India, has been engaged in expanding the local music business, such as creating new labels and acquiring Bollywood music catalogues.
On the other hand, he said Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) "delivers Kando content through media networks and a DTC (direct-to-consumer) service, which we began operating in 2013".
Yoshida added that the group's video-on-demand service Crunchyroll is also available in India and has been streaming Hindi dubbed content since last year.
"We would like to further expand creations rooted in local culture through our expected merger with Zee Entertainment, a publicly listed Indian entertainment company," he said.
In addition to Yoshida, Sony's President, COO and CFO, Hiroki Totoki also spoke at the meeting. NP Singh, the Managing Director of SPNI, delivered a presentation about the opportunities in the Indian M&E market and discussed the company's achievements in its 2.5 decades of operations in the country.
"In 2021, we announced the signing of a deal to merge Zee into SPNI, which upon closing will enable us to expand our Kando content creation and strengthen our connection with diverse communities within India. The transaction's closing is subject to regulatory approvals," he said.
The company is also working with Sony Music India and established Sony Entertainment Talent Ventures India together in 2022 to offer Indian artists and creators the chance to collaborate and form global partnerships.
Singh further said, "The rapidly expanding Indian gaming market presents an exciting opportunity for Sony to extend its console, PC games, mobile games and esports presence." The India Hero Project, initiated by Sony Interactive Entertainment, also supports local game development talent, Singh said, adding, "We are eager to explore potential collaborations within the gaming industry." "India is a global economic powerhouse and an 'opportunity destination' -for artists, content creators, game developers, studios, platforms, and technology companies," he added.
Sony commenced its journey in the country with electronics and later expanded into entertainment, Totoki stated. "Now, the proportion of entertainment is bigger than electronics in India. We feel that this is a compelling market," he added.
In September 2021, SPNI and Zee entered into a non-binding term sheet to bring together their linear networks, digital assets, production operations and programme libraries. The combined entity will own over 70 TV channels, two video streaming services (ZEE5 and Sony LIV) and two film studios (Zee Studios and Sony Pictures Films India), making it the largest entertainment network in India.
Shareholders of Zee had given their ascent to the merger last year in October weeks after the fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India gave its conditional nod.