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Sony, Viacom18 merger called off due to Reliance disagreement: Reports

Sony’s entertainment business in India was reportedly in talks to merge with Viacom18 in a 51:49 ownership split, with Sony being the majority shareholder. However, those talks have now ended since Reliance Industries, which owns a majority of Viacom18 (a joint venture between the US-based Viacom and India’s Network18), wanted a bigger share, according to reports from PTI, the Economic Times, Mint, and IANS.

The merged entity would have been an entertainment giant on broadcast TV (with Network18 and Sony channels) as well as on the streaming front. Sony LIV and Voot both have a sizeable presence on the market, thanks to low pricing, an ad-supported business model, and being owned by major media conglomerates. The merged entity would have had significant access to content and distribution muscle.

The deal seems to have been called off reportedly because Reliance Industries wanted to own a majority of the merged entity, instead of Sony. Sony was reportedly negotiating on the understanding that it would control a majority stake in the combined entity. Reports indicated that since Reliance Jio sees content as a major part of its growth strategy, it wanted greater say on what would undoubtedly have been a significant player in both broadcast as well as streaming, both of which Reliance has interests in.

Jio announced postpaid plans and broadband plans bundled with streaming services and TV access in the recent months. But save for JioCinema and JioSaavn, Reliance is largely a distribution player, and as such is reliant on content suppliers like OTT streaming platforms. Controlling that part of the business — decisively — would be a huge advantage for Jio Platforms, which has amassed over ₹1 trillion in investments from investors around the world. With low per-subscriber revenue for wireless subscribers and falling fixed line broadband tariffs, dominance over content is key for Reliance.

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