Sony India Appoints Disney’s Gaurav Banerjee as its CEO

Gaurav Banerjee
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Sony Corporation has appointed Disney Star’s Gaurav Banerjee as the new chief executive officer (CEO) of its India unit, replacing NP Singh, who resigned last week after 25 years at the company. Banerjee is said to have resigned from his position at Disney Star, where he was in charge of content for Hindi entertainment and Disney+ Hotstar, and the business head for Star Bharat, Hindi & English movies, kids & infotainment and the regional channels in the east.

Banerjee is likely to join Sony by August and will lead 26 channels from general entertainment to sports and movies, and also streaming service SonyLiv. The media network is looking to rebuild itself after scrapping a planned merger with Zee Entertainment earlier this year that would have created a $10-billion enterprise.

Since the collapse of the proposed merger with Zee, Sony and Zee have dragged each other to court, with Zee last week seeking a termination fee of $90 million (around Rs 750 crore) from Sony. This came four months after Sony initiated arbitration proceedings against Zee at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). Sony has also sought $90 million in termination fees as part of its arbitration proceedings at the SAIC.

Banerjee will have to navigate these legal challenges as well as ensure that Sony can grow in a domestic media market that is rapidly consolidating. By early next year, Reliance-backed Viacom18 and Disney Star will combine to form an $8.5-billion joint venture, with over 100 TV channels like Star Plus, Colors and Star Sports and two streaming platforms, Disney+ Hotstar and JioCinema. It will have dominant market shares in subscription and advertising video-on-demand segments, and will cater to over 750 million viewers across India and the globe.

Following the collapse of the proposed merger with Zee, Singh had indicated that Sony was open to acquisitions in the domestic market. Experts say that Banerjee may have to scan the market carefully as Sony looks at both organic and inorganic growth opportunities to counter the Reliance-Disney combine.

Sony is estimated to have a network viewership share of 10-12% to Zee’s 18-20% and Disney Star’s 25-26%, according to industry experts. Had Sony and Zee combined, their viewership share would have touched 30%. Reliance-Disney would have had around a 40% viewership share.

Banerjee, say industry sources, has a good understanding of Indian content needs, having led entertainment content at television channels like Star Plus and at Disney+ Hotstar. He transitioned to the role of an entertainment executive from a journalist in 2008 when he joined Star India to lead content strategy for the network’s regional entertainment channels. He helped the company expand into new markets with the launch of Star Jalsha in Bengal and Star Pravah in Maharashtra.

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