This is an intriguing move for Tribune, and a black eye for Sony as it seeks savings and cost cuts. It paid $260M for Gracenote in 2008 and says today that it expects the sale to add $60M to its operating income. The firm specializes in metadata — the kind of information that enables other services including Apple’s iTunes, Rhapsody, Spotify, and Xbox Music to recognize what song or TV show is playing. That could become important as viewers increasingly use smartphones and tablets while they watch TV. But Gracenote faces tough competition from services including Shazam. Tribune says that it will combine Gracenote with Tribune Media Services to create what it says will be one of the world’s largest entertainment metadata companies. With the transaction, TMS hopes to serve “new and exciting customers with better data, new products, and new services to help an evolving entertainment industry,” says Tribune Digital Centures President Shashi Seth. Gracenote President Stephen White adds that the union “will help us reimagine how people discover and connect with music, movies, and TV shows across all devices.” Gracenote has data for about 180M music tracks as well as 1M movies and TV shows. It also owns more than 90 U.S. and foreign patents.
Deadline Financial Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom talk about highlights from this week’s big UBS media investor conference, which was dominated by lots and lots of talk about the future of pay television, whether the conversation was about DirecTV dropping channels, Viacom and Sony possibly starting an online service, Aereo’s big talk about partnering with cable companies and challenging broadcasters in the Supreme Court, or rising ad revenues for CBS and other broadcasters in a year plumped up by revenues from the Winter Olympics, mid-term elections and an improving economy.
Michael Lynton said last month that they intended to create “a bigger universe around Spider-Man” and today Sony Pictures had a new webslinging big bang. Sony Pictures Entertainment, in association with Marvel Entertainment, announced it will make movies on Spidey villains Venom and The Sinister Six. Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Ed Solomon, and Drew Goddard to collaborate on overseeing the developing story over several films that will be produced by Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach. This was announced via the tucked away ElectroArrives.com, Spider-Man 2 related website. Spider-Man reboot 1 & 2 director Marc Webb will join the five scribes and two producers in what Sony is terming “a franchise brain trust to expand the universe for the brand and to develop a continuous tone and thread throughout the films.”
For a studio that’s trimming back film output it is a pretty big expansion but then again the 4-movie Spidey franchise has made $3.2 billion worldwide so far for Sony/Columbia since it started in 2002 – and that’s without the expected blockbuster of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that starts its international rollout on April 16, 2014 and debuts Stateside on May 2, 2014. Besides Spider-Man 3, which is expected to come out on June 10, 2016, there is a Kurtzman-directed Venom and a …
EXCLUSIVE: Sony is re-releasing its Tom Hanks-starring Oscar contender Captain Phillips on Wednesday, January 15 — the day before the Academy Awards nominations are announced — and hopes to expand the film into 1,000 theaters nationwide by that time. Currently, it’s in 640 locations with a mere $797 per-screen average as the film has been winding down its initial run. The true-life film about the captain of a ship taken over by Somali pirates already has made more than $100 million at the domestic box office since bowing in October. Its DVD/Blu-ray release is less than a week later on January 21, but the studio wants to sweeten its chances for Oscars before final ballots are due Feb. 25, hence the expansion. Newcomer Barkhad Abdi has garnered much Oscar buzz for his role as the young man coerced into a mission way beyond his ability. Captain Phillips brought in $510,201 this past weekend, pushing its cume to $103.5 million.
Culver City, Calif. (December 6, 2013) – Michael De Luca is joining Sony Pictures Entertainment as President of Production for Columbia Pictures. De Luca will partner with Hannah Minghella to oversee development and production for the Columbia Pictures label and will report to Doug Belgrad, President, Columbia Pictures.
“Mike has worked with us on several of our highest-quality and most commercial recent films, and he’s nurtured many of our generation’s most important filmmakers. Likewise, Hannah is a tremendous creative executive who has made major contributions to our entire slate, in particular our key Spider-Man and Jump Street franchises. Together, Hannah and Mike will be a formidable team,” said Belgrad.
Deadline’s financial editor talks with host David Bloom about Sony’s big investor meeting this week and the changes and cuts it’s promising to make to enhance the health of its “vital” entertainment unit; the race between Sony and Microsoft as each finally launches long-awaited next-generation videogame consoles; more big cuts at the long-suffering Tribune Co.’s newspapers; and John Malone and Charter Communications look like they’re about to go hunting for more cable companies.
A week after its biggest competitor’s successful launch, Microsoft rolled out its own next-generation video game console, the Xbox One, in a midnight party in Hollywood amid hundreds of gamers and a fair smattering of rappers, actors, YouTube personalities and other celebrities of varying wattage. The Xbox One is $100 more expensive than Sony’s PS4 at $499, but more technically capable thanks to included motion, face and voice sensors. Sony’s console sold 1 million units on its launch day a week ago. Both companies will be fighting for consumer attention this holiday season, which kicks off officially in one more week.
At last night’s event at the Milk Studios in Hollywood, as electronic dance music star Deadmau5 and other DJs spun on a stage, the company showed off its biggest games — including some 22 titles exclusive to the platform — to fans who played for hours ahead of the machine’s first official sale at 12:01 AM. But all the night’s noise obscured Microsoft’s broader push, which is that the machine can integrate all kinds of entertainment while easing access to them all. One of the machine’s niftiest tricks is a slick and relatively reliable ability to seamlessly switch between, or even simultaneously watch/use/play, a TV show, the Internet and a game with virtually no delays. The device’s sensors can recognize when a person has sat down in front of it, and automatically open up that person’s customized interface on screen. It can even do so for more than one person at a time. Voice and gesture commands work pretty well, though many reviewers have said the gee-whiz tech isn’t reliable enough yet to completely replace using a hand controller to navigate.
When they introduced the console six months ago, Microsoft reps talked up new kinds of interactive programming being created by Microsoft Studios under former CBS honcho Nancy Tellem. But last night only games were on display. They didn’t even demonstrate the offerings for fantasy football as part of their new deal with the NFL.
In October 2001, then-Sony Corp of America CEO Howard Stringer declared that the network production business “doesn’t make any sense anymore,” effectively closing the studio’s primetime TV division, Columbia TriStar Television. Overall deals were dissolved, executives were let go, and the development slate was trashed in a move Sony projected would save it more that $100 million a year. Sony‘s syndication TV chief Steve Mosko was tapped to head a stripped-down TV unit, Columbia TriStar Domestic Television (renamed Sony Pictures TV in 2002), which consisted primarily of syndication/daytime and modest international operations.
Today, 12 years later, Stringer’s successor Michael Lynton announced that the company will make “a significant shift in emphasis from motion pictures to higher-margin television.” This is Sony’s biggest public acknowledgement to date of the growing significance of its TV business, which has been rapidly expanding during the past decade, mainly under the radar. Sony does not separate its movie and TV revenues, but it has been well known that TV has contributed well over 50% of Sony Entertainment’s operating income for the past couple of years, with some indicating that the TV group’s contribution may be over 60%, especially with the film division going through a rough time. While there have been profit stalwarts, like Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy!, Days Of Our Lives, The Young & The Restless and the Seinfeld off-network rights, there also have been new areas of growth. The biggest revenue driver has been Sony’s international TV networks, which have expanded to 127 channels in 150 countries, up from 78 and 83 a decade ago.
As the biggest profit generator likely for the entire Sony Entertainment, the international network group is likely to get the lion’s share of the additional resources the company will be committing to its TV operations, to go toward new investments and growing the existing channels. But TV production also is expected to get a boost. After the bloodbath of 2001, it took awhile for Sony to get back in the network business. The studio took a different approach than the one that got it into financial trouble in the first place — signing a lot of pricey overall deals and spending a ton on development and pilots to support them with little to show for it in terms of on-air series. Burned by the volume network business, Sony forged its way into the then-uncharted world of basic cable original programming with FX’s The Shield, which it distributed internationally, Rescue Me, Damages and Justified and AMC’s Breaking Bad. It gradually returned to network TV with modest hits such as Rules Of Engagement and Community.
CEO Kazuo Hirai just gave his movie, TV, and music enterprises a strong endorsement as he kicked off the company’s long-awaited investor briefing about the businesses. “I know that the whole of Sony is greater than the sum of its parts,” he says calling entertainment “a core part of Sony” that is “crucial to our future growth.” He says Sony has had 89 No. 1 movies since 2000, 38 TV series produced in the U.S. this year, 1,500 music artists, and is the No. 1 music publisher. But the picture segment generated a loss in the most recent quarter, and “some movies just didn’t perform as we had estimated” adding that the operation “must get better.” He said that the unit will become more profitable and will revamp the process of greenlighting films. Strategic priorities for entertainment include investing in “fast growing and high margin businesses,” building existing libraries, creating “compelling new franchises,” accelerating collaboration across all of Sony’s businesses, and “rigorous cost management.” Today’s meeting follows up on a promise that Hirai made to Third Point CEO Daniel Loeb: After rejecting the hedge fund owner’s proposal to create a new stock for entertainment and sell a minority stake to the public, Hirai said that he would ”increase disclosure regarding Sony’s entertainment businesses. We agree this can help market participants analyze their performance and monitor their success.” Loeb stung the company over the summer, charging that Sony “has plenty …
The movie, TV and music operation plans to tell investors on Thursday that it has hired Bain & Co to find ways to cut $100M, a sum that “would almost assuredly result in layoffs,” The New York Times reports citing unnamed sources. “As part of a nearly four year process of increasing fiscal discipline, Sony Pictures is conducting a review of its business to identify further efficiencies,” says Sony Entertainment‘s Charles Sipkins. “Our objective is, and always has been, to operate an efficient studio that is uniquely positioned to capitalize on future growth opportunities.” Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton will lead the Culver City meeting this week, a follow-up to a promise that CEO Kazuo Hirai made in August to Third Point CEO Daniel Loeb: After rejecting the hedge fund owner’s proposal to create a new stock for entertainment and sell a minority stake to the public, Hirai said that he would ”increase disclosure regarding Sony’s entertainment businesses. We agree this can help market participants analyze their performance and monitor their success.” Loeb stung the company over the summer, charging that Sony “has plenty of reasons to worry about Entertainment,” which he said generated lower profit margins than its competitors. George Clooney came to Sony’s defense in a conversation with my colleague Mike Fleming Jr, calling Loeb a “carpetbagger.” Hirai said that the board “unanimously concluded that continuing to own 100% of our entertainment business is the best path …
It’s been years since we’ve seen new models of the major gaming consoles battle head-to-head in the marketplace. And Sony‘s PlayStation 4, in its first weekend, has set a high bar in initial sales for Microsoft to try to beat later this week when it releases the Xbox One. Sony’s stock is +1.5% thus far today — when most stocks are down — following the company’s announcement yesterday that it sold 1M PS4s in the first 24 hours after Friday when it was released in the U.S. and Canada. ”Sales remain very strong in North America, and we expect continued enthusiasm as we launch the PlayStation 4 in Europe and Latin America on November 29,” Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House added. Even so, Benchmark Co analyst Mike Hickey notes that the roll out was “marred” by reports of a problem: “A pulsing blue light in the centre of the console, nicknamed the Blue Light of Death in tribute to the Xbox 360′s infamous ‘Red Ring of Death’, has reportedly heralded the doom on hundreds of bricked PS4s,” he says in a report. A company spokesman in Tokyo told Bloomberg that these are “isolated incidents and represent a very small percentage of total units shipped to consumers to date.” Still, Sony posted several suggestions for consumers to fix the problem “while we investigate.”
David O Russell‘s American Hustle opens in limited release on December 13th and goes wide on December 18th. Sony sneaked six minutes of the period drama about the FBI’s late-70s Abscam sting at an AFI Fest tribute to Russell over the weekend. Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner star. This first TV spot includes footage that wasn’t in the previous trailer:
Contenders 2013: ‘Captain Phillips,’ ‘American Hustle,’ ‘Tim’s Vermeer,’ ‘Before Midnight,’ ‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ ‘Lone Survivor,’ ‘Despicable Me 2’ & ‘The Croods’ Bid For Oscar
Anna Lisa Raya is a Deadline contributor.
The second half of Deadline’s 3rd annual Contenders event at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills got off to an energized start after lunch on the outdoor terrace. Deadline Awards columnist Pete Hammond returned with Captain Phillips star Barkhad Abdi, who had one of the bigger moments of the day when he revealed he ad-libbed his momentous “I am the captain now” line in the Sony film, essentially stealing the scene from Tom Hanks. The film’s producers, Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti, were spotted in the audience joining in the roaring applause.
Anyone who’s been waiting for David O. Russell’s follow-up to last year’s Oscar-nominated Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle (also for for Sony), will be happy to know the film was locked down today. This is per one of the film’s producers, Richard Suckle, who was on hand to discuss the genesis of the film which is loosely based on the ABSCAM scandals of the 1970s. One of his funnier reveals was that star Bradley Cooper — not wanting to perm his hair for the film — spent hours in hair and makeup every day getting it curled. Co-star Christian Bale, on the other hand, gained 40 lbs. for his role and shaved the crown of his head to perfect his character’s outlandish comb over.
Julie Delpy, co-writer and star of Sony Pictures Classics’ Before Midnight, had a lot to say about the intense writing and preparation that went into making the film appear as improvised and natural as it does. Acting the role was “extremely stressful,” she told Hammond. “There’s no plot. There’s nothing to hold onto but character and emotional arc.” Also for SPC is Tim’s Vermeer — a documentary about one man’s attempt to recreate a Johannes Vermeer painting — which was uncharacteristically directed by Teller (better known as the other half of Penn & Teller). He was thankful for his editor, Patrick Sheffield, who made sense of the over 2,400 hours of footage. Writer Kelly Marcel was on-hand to discuss Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, the only film ever allowed to feature Walt Disney as a character. She called the studio “unbelievably brave” in how hands-off they were with her and director John Lee Hancock.
Related: PHOTOS: Contenders 2013 Gallery
A downward revision in expected annual sales of cameras and TVs, and underperformance in the motion picture division have contributed to Sony‘s tweak of its full-year forecast. Net income for the year ending in March 2014 is now eyed at 30B yen ($305.4M) as opposed to the August estimate of 50B yen ($509M). The news compared with a 50.5B yen average of Bloomberg analyst estimates. Overall, total sales were up 10.6% year-on-year, but Sony recorded a net loss of $196M. Operating income was down to $151M, a 51.2% drop. Sales in the Pictures division were up on a yen basis, but down 13% to $1.8B on a U.S. dollar basis due to the depreciation of the yen against the dollar. The drop is partly due to the strength of the period last year, when 21 Jump Street was performing well on home video and the global theatrical run of The Amazing Spider-Man was still goosing the numbers. An operating loss of $181M compares to positive operating income of $80.45M in the same quarter last year and reflects the underperformance of White House Down, Sony said from Tokyo. For the full year, the division is expected to have sales and operating income below the earlier forecast, “primarily due to the underperformance” of the “current year film slate in the current quarter.” The news today follows Sony’s August reporting when the company saw a decrease …
Neill Blomkamp‘s sci-fi Chappie has added Sigourney Weaver as filming gets underway in Johannesburg. The Sony/MRC production written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell follows the preternaturally gifted robot Chappie, who’s kidnapped by two criminals during birth. Weaver joins an eclectic cast that includes Hugh Jackman, Sharlto Copley voicing the eponymous Chappie, Dev Patel, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Brandon Auret, and Ninja and Yolandi Visser of the South African rap duo Die Antwoord. Sony is distributing the pic, which is being produced by Blomkamp and his Elysium producer Simon Kinberg. Sony’s Hannah Minghella and Rachel O’Connor are overseeing with Brye Adler of MRC. Weaver is repped by UTA.
The President and CEO of Sony Corp has had a busy year, so he’s ringing in 2014 in Las Vegas — by delivering the opening speech at CES on January 7, that is. Kazuo Hirai has spoken recently about plans to revitalize his company’s electronics business, so he’ll have plenty to talk about at the annual consumer tech show. Expect to hear more about Sony’s new 4K Ultra HD video download service and its recent deal to carry Viacom’s channels on the Internet-based TV service the Japanese conglomerate is working on. Hirai will speak in the Venetian’s Palazzo Ballroom after Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro’s State of the Industry Address. International CES runs through January 10.
President Obama warned this afternoon that the economy could head toward a “very deep recession” unless lawmakers agree to raise the debt ceiling soon. Many investors seem to agree: With lawmakers unable to agree on terms of a potential deal, several are cashing out recent gains to sit on the sidelines until they have a clearer sense of where things are headed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.1% today, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 was -1.2% and NASDAQ -2%. Media and tech stocks also took a hit with the Dow Jones U.S. Media Index falling 1.5% today. Sony (-3.3%) was hardest hit among Big Media companies followed by CBS (-2.4%), Viacom (-2.1%), Fox (-2%), Liberty Media (-1.7%), Comcast (-1.1%), Time Warner (-1%), Disney (-0.9%), and News Corp (-0.7%). Among the broader field of companies we watch, Pandora (-7.8%) dropped most. Others licking their wounds include Cumulus (-7.1%), Facebook (-6.7%), Netflix (-5%), RealD (-4.6%), Lionsgate (-4%), and Best Buy (-3.6%). A few companies managed to eek out modest gains led by Redbox owner Outerwall (+6.2%) which is still benefiting from the recent disclosure by activist investor Jana Partners that it has bought a big stake in the company and wants changes in strategy that will pay off for shareholders.
In what could be good news for the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, China is moving to repeal a 13-year ban on the sale of video game consoles within the country. The news came in a set of rules issued by the State Council today with regard to the new free-trade zone in Shanghai. Foreign companies will be able to sell their products throughout China if the companies operate sales and production within the zone, The Wall Street Journal said. Each device, however, will have to be approved by the Culture Ministry. The relaxation of the ban comes a few days after reports that Microsoft was partnering with Chinese internet TV company BesTV to develop family games and related services. The Journal points out that consoles have long been available in China through “unofficial channels”, but that players prefer gaming on computers and phones. Consoles were initially banned in 2000 over concern that gaming would harm young people. No timeline has been set for consoles to reenter the market.
Sony is backing off the hot 4th of July 2014 weekend with its Sex Tape, directed by Jake Kasdan. Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel star in the comedy as a couple whose raunchy home vid goes missing. But New Line‘s Tammy, from comedy powerhouse Melissa McCarthy, was also slated to open July 2. Sex Tape will now move to July 18 leaving Tammy the sole weekend wide release so far.