From Pariah To Company MVP: The Quiet Rise Of Sony’s TV Division

By | Thursday November 21, 2013 @ 5:40pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

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.

Related: Sony Pictures To Shift Emphasis From Movies To TV

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.

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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.

Related: Sony CEO: Entertainment Is “Crucial” To Company
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Sony CEO: Entertainment Is “Crucial” To Company

By | Thursday November 21, 2013 @ 8:17am PST

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 … Read More »

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Sony Hires Consultant To Find $100M In Cost Cuts In Entertainment Unit: Report

By | Monday November 18, 2013 @ 2:33pm PST

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 TimesRead More »

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Sony Shares Rise Following Successful PS4 Launch

By | Monday November 18, 2013 @ 12:15pm PST

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.” Read More »

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Hot TV Spot: ‘American Hustle’

By | Wednesday November 13, 2013 @ 4:02am PST

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. … Read More »

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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.

Related: Deadline’s Contenders 2013 – Morning Panels

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 ClassicsBefore 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
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Sony Slashes Full-Year Forecast Citing Movie Division, Drop In Electronics Sales

By | Thursday October 31, 2013 @ 4:19am PDT

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 … Read More »

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Sigourney Weaver Joins Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Chappie’

By | Monday October 28, 2013 @ 11:25am PDT

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, … Read More »

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Sony’s Kazuo Hirai To Deliver Keynote At 2014 CES

By | Tuesday October 22, 2013 @ 2:14pm PDT

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 HiraiRead More »

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Media And Tech Stocks Hit By Concerns About Possible Government Default

By | Tuesday October 8, 2013 @ 1:52pm PDT

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 … Read More »

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China To Lift Ban On Sale Of Video Game Consoles: Reports

By | Friday September 27, 2013 @ 5:16am PDT

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 … Read More »

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Sony Delays Cameron Diaz & Jason Segel’s ‘Sex Tape’

By | Wednesday September 18, 2013 @ 4:30pm PDT

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 … Read More »

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Sony SVP Steve Elzer Exiting In December

By | Tuesday September 17, 2013 @ 3:29pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Sony‘s indefatigable top PR guy Steve Elzer will be leaving the studio in December after a 12-year run. It has to do with a consolidation of the department and the recent hiring of Charlie Sipkins. Elzer will … Read More »

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Sony Plans Investor Meeting To Discuss Entertainment Businesses

By | Thursday September 12, 2013 @ 2:43pm PDT

The company is telling analysts and investors to hold November 21 for a “Sony Entertainment Investor Day” to be held at the Sony Pictures Entertainment lot in Culver City. No word on why — or who’ll be … Read More »

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Sony Introduces 4K Ultra HD Video Download Service

By | Wednesday September 4, 2013 @ 1:08pm PDT

It’s hard to sell 4K television sets to people if they have little to watch on them. Sony hopes to break through that dilemma today with the introduction of Video Unlimited 4K, which it says is … Read More »

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Sony Sets PS4 Release For November 15

By | Tuesday August 20, 2013 @ 11:49am PDT

David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.

Sony Playstation 4PlayStation Group CEO and president Andrew House told a press event at the big GamesCon conference in Germany today that the company’s next-generation game console, the PS4, will be released November … Read More »

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Samsung, Sony To Unveil New Devices September 4: Report

By | Monday August 19, 2013 @ 8:37am PDT

The two electronics giants are angling to show off their new gadgets ahead of the introduction of new iPhones, iPads and other products from rival Apple, Bloomberg reports. Along with the Note III phone/tablet hybrid, … Read More »

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Could A Viacom-Sony Deal Lead Cable Operators To Raise Prices For Streaming?

It just might if it frightens them enough to accelerate their efforts to make people pay for broadband based on how much they use — the same way they pay for electricity or water. ”This isn’t just a side show,” independent analyst Craig Moffett says. “This is THE central issue defining the value of the cable industry going forward.” And the pricing model could rock streaming companies including Netflix or, perhaps, Sony. It would be “a material risk” to Netflix’s prospects if a Sony-Viacom agreement leads to usage-based pricing, Bernstein Research’s Carlos Kirjner says. Read More »

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Viacom Agrees To Stream Cable Channels On Sony Online Service: WSJ

By | Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 11:03am PDT

This could be a big breakthrough for tech companies that want to create an Internet-based alternative to traditional cable and satellite services. The Wall Street Journal reports that Sony has a preliminary agreement to carry Viacom‘s channels on a service it hopes to launch by year end. The programming would initially go to those with Sony devices including its PlayStation gaming console and Bravia HDTVs, with tablets and smartphones to follow according to “a person familiar with the matter.” If Sony and Viacom complete their deal it would be the first time a major programmer has agreed to provide its most popular pay TV channels to an online service. Intel and Google are among the other companies hoping to use the Internet to challenge cable and satellite video offerings. Sony’s talking with other programmers including Disney, Time Warner, and CBS.

Related: Google Wants To Launch Online Pay TV Service: WSJ

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