Sony Pictures Networks India, the owner of popular television channels such as SET and ESPN, has closed in on Zee Entertainment in terms of revenue in 2017-18 financial year, but remains much behind arch-rival Star India.
The broadcasting company’s operating revenue surged more than 30 per cent to Rs 64.72 billion, compared with Zee’s Rs 66.86 billion and Star India’s 2016-17 revenue of Rs 85.25 billion, regulatory fillings at Registrar of Companies show. Star’s 2017-18 numbers are not available yet. While Sony’s growth in revenue surpassed the previous two years, its net profit in India dipped marginally to Rs 4.62 billion in 2017-18 from Rs 4.65 billion a year ago. Star India had registered Rs 5.58 billion in profit in 2016-17, after posting net losses in the previous two years.
Despite a drop, Zee’s bottom line remained healthier at Rs 14.78 billion during the past financial year. While both Star and Sony are closely into live broadcasting of sporting events, Zee’s revenue depends more on general entertainment. The drop in net profit for Zee and Sony during 2017-18 may have been due to a rising cost of distribution as cable operators and direct-to-home (DTH) players have increased commissions in recent quarters, experts said.
Data shows Sony’s operating revenue turned 10-fold in the past five years. From less than a fourth of Zee and Star’s individual revenues in 2013-14, its phenomenal rise during the past five years was backed by successful broadcasting contracts in the fields of cricket and football.
Its kitty remained full with money-making broadcasting services for sporting events such as India’s international cricket tours to South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies, apart from FIFA World Cup, Champions League and Europe League.
The sole broadcasting rights for much-coveted Indian Premier League (IPL) till 2017 also helped it lift its finances as Sony raked in more than Rs 13 billion in the 2017 season, sources said.
It had bagged the TV rights for IPL in 2008 for ten years at the cost of Rs 82 billion, while Star won the rights for over-the-top (OTT) screening at Rs 3.03 billion under its Hotstar brand. The dynamics, however, has changed in 2018.
Unlike earlier years, Star holds the broadcasting rights for the IPL for five seasons till 2022. It has bagged the contract for television and OTT rights against a whopping sum of Rs 163.5 billion, and is estimated to have earned back Rs 30 billion in the 2018 season alone, including ad revenues in excess of Rs 16 billion.
On the other hand, Sony has lost its priced jewel IPL but continues to hold the rights of seven international cricket boards, including three big ones — Australia, England and South Africa. It also has rights of FIFA, WWE, UFC, La Liga, among others.
The company said earlier this year it reduced dependence on contracts from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), and expected the sports broadcasting business to turn profitable in the next two years.