Billion-dollar question: What will the new Zee-Sony entity be called?

Dr. Annurag Batra ponders on what would be the name of the merged entity, given that both Sony and Zee have been powerful brand names in their own right

by Annurag Batra
Published - March 09, 2023
5 minutes To Read
Billion-dollar question: What will the new Zee-Sony entity be called?

I have often asked individuals if they would change their name for $5 million. It depends if you asked a guy who has $50 million or more in his bank and has built a personal brand. Names are our identity. We attach so much to who we are all through our life, through our name. Name is our brand, name is who we are, name is how people relate to you. Name is what sets expectations and builds the relationship and sustains the relationship.

India’s largest merger in the media and entertainment is about to be completed with Sony and Zee coming together. The house of Sony and Zee both have powerful multi-platform destinations and have big IPs that viewers and brands identify and engage with.

Words and names have power. Both Sony and Zee are huge brands. Zee is a huge brand on the bourses and has consistently performed well.

The Sony-Zee merger will create a media and entertainment behemoth in India.

I have written in the past that the merger is a good thing for all stakeholders, viewers, advertisers and the omni-broadcasting ecosystem.

The multi-billion-dollar question now is what would be the name of the new entity, the joint single entity of Sony India and Zee Telefilms.

Zee is a huge consumer brand, the Pride of India and its viewers. Advertisers and investors swear by it and has performed well in a 360-degree way. Zee was founded on 25 November, 1982, and is in its 31st year.

I must point out that post-completion of this merger, Zee Entertainment Enterprises will be merging into a new entity.

So, the two questions are:

Will there be a new name for the new entity?

The answer is - Yes.

The bigger question is what will be the new name?

I met NP Singh four weeks back at Sam Balsara’s annual dinner and I asked him and like the classic NP, he kept quiet and said “we are thinking”.

Most certainly there will be a new name.

The Indian entity of Sony Pictures is called Culver Max Entertainment Private Limited. I bet you did not know it, even if you are an industry leader. If you as a senior executive and industry leader don’t know it, how will consumers relate to it. From 1995 to 2007, the Indian entity of Sony Pictures was called SET India Private Limited and then from 2007 to 2015 Sony Pictures’ India arm was called Multi Screen Media Private Limited.

Culver Max Entertainment manages and operates 26 television channels, the streaming media platform Sony LIV, as well as the television studio Studio Next and film studios Sony Pictures International Studios. In April 2022, SPN changed its corporate name to Culver Max Entertainment, taking its name from a name and logo from a vanity production company used for Sony /Marvel animated series ‘The Spectacular Spider-Man’. The name is used exclusively by the holding company with Sony Pictures Networks continuing to be used as the consumer-facing brand. I am sure you noticed that on 24 October, 2022, nearly all of Sony Network went for a rebranding, coinciding with Diwali. It replaced the cropped ‘S’ logo, used by SET since its launch, with the S Curve logo template used by Sony’s television networks worldwide since 2019 and first used by SonyLIV.

I am sure you know Sony Pictures’ headquarters is in Culver City, California, United States. That’s why Culver Max Entertainment

The key executives for many years have been Mr N P Singh, who is the MD and CEO, Mr Nitin Nadkarni, who is the CFO, and Mr Ashok Nambissan, who is the General Counsel.

Sony also has Sony Pictures India Pvt Ltd. As a media consumer franchise, Sony is a huge brand and has also been strengthened by its work in the last 27-plus years in India. Its association with Sony consumer durables has also strengthened the recall.

So what should be the name of the merged corporate entity? That’s the multi-billion-dollar question.

I do not know. We will know in a couple of weeks.

However, one thing I am certain of is that Zee is a name that India’s investors have betted on and have watched, and it would be a good idea to come up with a name that has both brands Sony and Zee. Zee is a huge brand in India, including in urban, semi-urban and rural India. Zee has been around for three decades, a little longer than Sony in India.

So, should the new entity be called Sony-Zee India?

That’s the best of both worlds. We will see.

The second question is - should the names of platforms and channels and IPs be changed?

To this one, I can empathically say that consumers, viewers have had a learning experience with these huge brands and platforms and it would be good to keep the brand franchises intact.

Over the last 3 decades, both businesses - Zee and Sony - have invested in building a name amongst viewers, and it would be best to build on the trust that viewers have in these huge brand franchises.

We are in March. Ideally, the merger has to be completed by March-end or April. Definitely in the first quarter, for it to have an annual impact and full life, and I am hopeful it will be completed soon.

Till then let’s see what Culver Max Entertainment and Zee Entertainment Enterprises give birth to. I am sure it will be a name, which will build on both strong brands of Zee and Sony.

And as they say, the idea is not to live forever but to create something that will.

Dr Annurag Batra has been a media commentator and analyst for 22 years and has been writing on business, media and start-ups for the last two decades. He is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of exchange4media and Chairman & Editor-in-Chief of BW Businessworld.