Khan, Vyas take up lead roles ahead of Sony-ZEE merger

Sony Pictures Networks India, the local unit of Japan’s Sony Corp, is set to reshuffle its leadership team ahead of the merger with Zee Entertainment Enterprises.

Danish Khan, who is currently the business head of the flagship Hindi general entertainment channel Sony Entertainment Television as well as digital business, besides the network channels licensing operations, will shift his focus to SonyLIV and StudioNEXT, Sony Pictures Networks’ content creation arm. Neeraj Vyas, who runs Sony SAB, PAL, and Sony MAX Movie Cluster, will helm Sony Entertainment Television starting 1 June.

Senior company executives, seeking anonymity, said that the announcement is likely on Monday. There are also speculations that Khan may oversee the entire OTT business of the merged entity, which includes SonyLIV and ZEE5.

Khan, with nearly 18 years at Sony across two stints, returned as business head of SET in 2015 and assumed control of SonyLIV in 2019. SonyLIV has since become one of the fastest-growing OTT services in both viewership and subscriptions.

N.P. Singh, managing director and chief executive of Sony Pictures Networks India, had touted Sony as the only media company with a profitable digital operation. Last year, it said that SonyLIV’s paid subscriber base surged from 700,000 in early 2020, to over 18 million, with 6.9 million direct subscribers and an annual average revenue per user of 573.

Vyas, a 27-year Sony veteran who began as a sales executive, managed the movie channel business before taking over Sony SAB in 2017. The channel, home to the popular comedy Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma, has recently undergone a transformation.

Culver Max Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, the consumer-facing entity of Sony Pictures and an indirect subsidiary of Sony Group Corp operates 26 linear TV channels in India. In 2021, Sony and ZEE agreed to merge, aiming to form one of the largest entertainment networks in the country. However, while the merger was approved by stock exchanges and the Competition Commission of India, it is yet to get a clearance from the National Company Law Tribunal .

Culver Max Entertainment will hold a 50.86% stake in the merged entity, ZEE’s promoters will own 3.99%, and ZEE’s public shareholders will have the remaining 45.15% stake.

Sony Group, however, did not respond to Mint’s queries.

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Updated: 14 May 2023, 10:20 PM IST

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