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Business News/ Companies / People/  N.P. Singh to step down as MD & CEO of Sony Pictures Networks India
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N.P. Singh to step down as MD & CEO of Sony Pictures Networks India

Singh announced his decision to step down from his role as MD and CEO, citing significant milestones achieved and a desire to focus on social change and advisory roles.

 NP Singh had joined Sony in June 1999 as its chief financial officer and was subsequently elevated to the position of COO in 2004 and MD and CEO in 2014.Premium
NP Singh had joined Sony in June 1999 as its chief financial officer and was subsequently elevated to the position of COO in 2004 and MD and CEO in 2014.

Mumbai/New Delhi: On 1 April 2024, in an internal newsletter to employees, N.P. Singh, MD and CEO of Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), reflected on the company’s resilience during FY24 and anticipated challenges in FY25. “Heading into FY25, we’re gearing up for a challenging year but are ready with our creative spirit and strong resolve. Our goal is sharp: to captivate audiences and boost our subscriber base and revenue through impactful content. We’re channelling investments into new shows, including those on SonyLIV. Our strategy emphasises driving organic growth and amplifying our market presence through strategic partnerships."

On Friday, Singh, in another letter to the employees, announced his decision to step down from his role as MD and CEO, citing significant milestones achieved and a desire to focus on social change and advisory roles. “I am now ready to focus on social change and shift from operational roles to advisory ones," he wrote.

Succession plan

After 44 years in the industry, including 25 years at SPNI in various leadership roles, Singh will step down as soon as the company finds a suitable replacement. He stated that the company has begun a structured succession planning process to find his successor.

“Finding the right fit is our top priority," he wrote.

Singh, 65, first joined Sony Entertainment Television (later renamed as Multi Screen Media, SPNI, and finally Culver Max Entertainment) as its chief financial officer in June 1999, under CEO Kunal Dasgupta. In 2004, he was elevated to the role of COO, and finally, in 2014, he was promoted as CEO.

Also Read: Zee demands $90 million in termination fee from Sony for calling off merger

Known in the entertainment industry as an affable, yet spotlight-shy executive, Singh was always bottom-line driven, earning him the nickname “CFO in a CEO role" from rivals—a moniker he took as a compliment. During various interviews, Singh always emphasised “growing profitably" and generating “reasonable returns" for shareholders.

In his letter to employees, Singh reiterated his commitment to Sony and its success. “During my time here, we have established industry benchmarks, expanded our reach, and achieved many noteworthy accomplishments. I am dedicated to ensuring our legacy of success continues and grows under the new leadership."

He urged employees not to speculate and to rely on official updates. “We are committed to sharing timely and transparent information through our established channels and will communicate any definitive updates directly," he wrote.

Reason of departure

Some in the industry see Singh’s departure as linked to the failed $10-billion merger with Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEE), which was terminated on 22 January after dragging on for more than two years. However, Singh had assured employees that the company had long-term expansion plans in India despite the collapse of the deal. “As we transition from this phase, I, along with the senior management team, am committed to setting the company up for a long-term, strong future. We will actively explore new organic and inorganic possibilities to strengthen our market presence," Singh wrote in a letter after the merger was called off.

Singh was instrumental in strengthening SPNI’s sports network, expanding from one channel—Sony Six—to a portfolio of channels after acquiring TEN Sports Network from ZEE for $385 million in 2016. This acquisition included rights to several major cricket boards and other sports properties like WWE and the UEFA Champions League.

Also read: Sony Group terminates merger with Zee Entertainment

Singh also negotiated a licensing agreement with Disney-owned ESPN to launch co-branded sports channels and initiated a joint venture with BBC Worldwide to launch Sony BBC Earth, a factual entertainment channel.

Under Singh’s leadership, Sony consolidated its presence on YouTube, signing a multi-million-dollar deal with Google. This helped SPNI monetize long-tail content, making SET India one of the most subscribed channels on YouTube in India, with 172 million subscribers.

In one of his last interviews in May 2022, Singh highlighted FY22 as the most successful year in Sony’s history in India, with strong revenue growth and a “very healthy" bottom line. The company’s digital business was noted as one of the few Ebitda-positive digital operations in the country.

Singh was outspoken against the “unrealistic" acquisition costs for sporting rights. While SPNI was the first to bet big on the IPL, bidding over 8,000 crore for 10 years, it later bid only 11,000 crore for TV rights in 2017, losing to Star India’s 16,347.50 crore bid.

Later, Singh had said that SPNI is a serious sports broadcaster, and will continue to evaluate every opportunity to acquire. “But, with a view of making decent margins, rather than losing money," he had told this reporter. “All our rights acquisitions go through stringent evaluation processes, which is why we are the most profitable sports broadcaster."

Sony entered the Indian market on 8 October 1995, launching a Hindi entertainment channel, Sony Entertainment Television. From one channel, it grew into a 24-channel network with a digital OTT service, a film production arm, and a content creation studio.

“The company has steadily grown over the years to an employee count of around 1,200, with its services available across 167 countries and reaching over 700 million viewers," Singh noted in a letter marking Sony’s 25 years in India in 2020.

“The strategy from the start has not only revolved around running a successful business but also creating impact for all stakeholders coupled with the intent of building a brand known for innovative content. It is my firm belief, doing things only for the sake of doing inevitably leads to stagnation rather than success. Impact is a true measure of organisational vision. When one talks about creating impact, there is no better example than the bold bet on the IPL. This was uncharted territory in 2007 when cricket leagues were unheard of. We invested in it when there were hardly any believers and moulded it into one of the most valuable sports entertainment properties in the country. The rest, as they say, is history," he wrote in his letter on Friday.

Before joining Sony, Singh worked at organisations like Spice Telecom, Modicorp, and Hindustan Copper Ltd.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gaurav Laghate
Gaurav Laghate is a journalist with extensive experience in the media and entertainment industry. He currently serves as Senior Editor at Mint, where he oversees the consumer vertical. With a career spanning over 15 years, Laghate has established himself as an expert in business journalism, particularly focusing on the Indian market, technology, media, sports business, and corporate investments. Before joining Mint, Laghate worked with several notable publications such as The Economic Times, Business Standard and Television Post, where he tracked industry trends and provided in-depth analyses on various topics within the media and entertainment sectors. His work is known for its insightful commentary and detailed reporting on mergers, company strategies, new product launches, and industry insights from key players.
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Published: 24 May 2024, 10:53 AM IST
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