Television

Viacom18 and Zeel eyeing a merger?

No confirmation or denial is forthcoming. Are the two firms serious?

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New Delhi: It’s the season for mergers. Following in the footsteps of  big media mergers globally, two entertainment giants back home- Viacom18 Media Pvt Ltd and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel) are now reportedly looking to join hands to create a large firm, according to an unconfirmed news item in Mint on Monday.

If  the reports are to be believed, the owner of the GEC Colors, Viacom18, and Subhash Chandra’s Zeel have initiated talks of a potential merger. It is too early to say, but, if the deal fructifies, the combined entity will end up owning and managing the largest number of TV channels in India, and probably globally. The combined media firm’s interest will span across broadcast, OTT, live entertainment, and movie production.

However, it is not the first time that such talks of coagulating companies in the television business have floated. The buzz has been proven to be unfounded in the past.

Last year,  similar talks of a  merger  between Viacom18 and Sony Pictures Network fell apart, after the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd pushed for a majority stake in the combined entity as well. RIL owns a majority stake in Viacom18, which is a joint venture between TV18 Broadcast Ltd and US-based ViacomCBS Inc. While Network18 owns a 51 per cent stake in Viacom 18, Viacom holds the remaining 49 per cent.

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd was founded by Essel Group’s Subhash Chandra and is majority-owned by foreign institutional investors - Investco Oppenheimer Developing Markets Fund and Ofi Global Fund China LLC. The company is run by Chandra’s son and CEO & managing director Punit Goenka.

A Zeel spokesperson refused to confirm or deny the speculative news item. Said a Zeel corporate official:  “The company does not comment on speculation and rumours.” 

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