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Sony gets CCI nod for $385-mn acquisition of Ten Sports from ZEEL

MUMBAI: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has approved the $385-million acquisition of Taj Television, the sports broadcasting subsidiary of ZEEL, by Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI).

With the CCI clearance, Taj Television’s sports channels under the ‘Ten’ brand have crossed the biggest hurdle in becoming part of Sony. This paves the way for India becoming a duopoly sports broadcasting market. Starved of cash, Neo Sports is a fringe player.

The CCI had defined the ‘broadcast of television channels in India’ as the relevant market in the present case. It didn’t find any adverse impact of the deal on the competition in the broadcasting sector.

SPNI CEO NP Singh had recently told TelevisionPost.com that the company is awaiting regulatory clearances including CCI clearance to complete $385-million acquisition of Ten Sports Network from ZEEL.

What was the proposal before CCI

ZEEL and Sony had incorporated a new company by the name Aqua Holding Investments on 23 August 2016 for carrying out the proposed transaction.

The proposal before the CCI was the acquisition of 100% shareholding of Taj India, acquisition of the sports broadcasting business from Taj Mauritius and the subsequent merger of Aqua Holding Investments with Sony.

SPNI is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation (Japan), which owns and operates the Sony Pictures Entertainment network of television channels. Taj India functions as a distribution and advertisement selling agent in India for the television channels broadcasted by Taj Mauritius.

Taj Mauritius is engaged in broadcast and distribution of television channels across different parts of the world such as Pakistan, the Middle East, Caribbean, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. It also syndicates television content to third parties across all media platforms in several countries. Taj Mauritius functions through its agent Taj India in India.

Background of the deal

In August 2016, Sony had signed an agreement with ZEEL to buy the latter’s sports broadcasting business for $385 million (Rs 2578 crore).

The deal marked the exit of ZEEL from sports broadcasting and a consolidation of the TV sports market between Star India and Sony. As per the non-compete clause, ZEEL cannot enter sports broadcasting segment for four years.

The integration of Ten Sports is expected to be completed in a few months. Once integrated, the acquisition will add five channels Ten 1, Ten 1 HD, Ten 2, Ten 3, and Ten Golf HD to SPN’s existing portfolio of channels including Sony Six, Sony ESPN, Sony Six HD and Sony ESPN HD.

Outside India, SPNI will get Ten Cricket and Ten Sports channels that operate in the Maldives, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Middle East and Caribbean.

Ten Sports holds broadcast rights to major cricket boards (South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe). In addition, it holds rights to wrestling (WWE), football (UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, French League, English Football League Cup), tennis (WTA Events, ATP events), golf (European Tour, Asian Tour, Ryder Cup, US PGA Championship, LPGA Tour, Professional Golf Tour of India and Golf Channel Block), athletics (Asian Games, Commonwealth Games), motor sports (Moto GP) and cycling (Tour de France) events.

SPNI’s sports properties include cricket (IPL, CPL, Ram Slam), football (FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia, UEFA Euro 2016, FIFA World Events including FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 in India, European and South American Qualifiers for FIFA WC 2018, FIFA Confederations Cup, LaLiga, Serie A, FA Cup, Copa America Centenario, International Champions Cup), tennis (Australian Open, ATP 1000 and 500 World Tour Events, Champions Tennis League), fight sports (TNA, UFC, Pro Wrestling League), basketball (NBA), as well as NFL and Premier Futsal.

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