Sony to own 74% after the merger with Viacom 18; ready for a duel with Disney-Star.
Entertainment giant Sony Picture Network and Viacom18, a joint venture with Reliance Industries-owned Network 18 and ViacomCBS, are reportedly looking at a merger to take on Disney+ Hotstar and other digital entertainment platforms in India. The two companies are said to be in the final stages of the talks.
Currently, Network18 owns 51% stake in Viacom 18, while Viacom holds the remaining 49%. According to a Business Today report citing sources, Sony will own 74% stake in the merged entity, while Viacom18 will hold the remaining 26% once the deal is processed. Meanwhile, Reliance Industries will get a designated 10-12% share in the merged entity due to its stake in Viacom 18.
What’s In It For India’s OTT Market?
Disney and Star India had signed a merger last year for $71.3 Bn, under which Disney+ became part of Hotstar. The company has launched Disney+ under its Hotstar premium plans in India.
Sony operates SonyLIV as a direct competitor to Disney+. Under a recent revamp, SonyLIV has focussed more on originals, after competing toe-to-toe with Hotstar for live sports over the past few years.
While many industry experts expect the deal to offer competition to Disney+ others believe that it will be just another entity in the market without any major impact on the segment. Sony-Viacom has a strong presence in Hindi general entertainment (GEC) genre, which contributes a significant portion to the broadcast network’s revenue. This has led to some questioning whether Sony is indeed capable of competing just on the basis of such content and without marquee properties such as the Indian Premier League and a host of Disney content on Disney+ Hotstar.