The new Los Angeles-based initiative will provide an opportunity for candidates to shadow established TV directors on episodes of various hour and half-hour scripted Sony Pictures TV series. “The Diverse Directors Program will provide access and training to promising future directors and at the same time provide us with new, emerging talent behind the camera with various points of view,” SPT President Steve Mosko said. Submissions are being accepted online from May 23-June 6, or until 500 applications are received. Candidates must submit one completed example of a past directing project, letters of recommendation from entertainment industry professionals and an interview. Twenty semi-finalists will take part in an episodic directing workshop and attend networking events. The workshop will begin in June on Sony’s Culver City lot, and the curriculum will consist of six evenings of discussion and instruction from working directors and production personnel. Starting in August, three finalists will have an opportunity to shadow participating TV directors on various series and receive a weekly stipend. Participants be invited back to direct an episode of a scripted SPT series the following season. “Diversity on all levels is a central focus to many of our programs,” said Paul Martin, SVP and Chief Diversity Officer at Sony Pictures Entertainment, “and we fully believe that the Diverse Directors Program will not only provide access and experience to a diverse group of potential directors but will also become a key component …
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.
Sony has its eye on television, telling investors that it will become more central to its entertainment strategy. That’s a change from a few years ago, Sony Pictures Television president Steve Mosko says: The Japanese company couldn’t buy television stations in the U.S. and had “no cohesive global strategy.” But he says Sony has turned that around and now benefits from its freedom to produce TV shows for anyone, and seize opportunities in growing overseas economies. Echoing the theme of the day, Mosko says that his operation “will keep a close eye on controlling costs.” That shouldn’t affect its ability to attract talent: People know that “we will make the success of their show our top prioritiy,” says Zack Van Amburg U.S. programming and production chief. For example, Breaking Bad likely will generate 10 times the revenues originally expected. Production has already begun on a sequel for AMC, Better Call Saul, and “it will be profitable from year one.” Execs also say that The Blacklist is the No. 1 show worldwide, including in Australia, Canada, Latin America, and the UK. To underscore the range of opportunities, the company pointed to direct-to-series orders from Netflix (for a family murder mystery series), Starz (for Outlander, created by Ron Moore), SyFy (Helix, also from Moore), and CBS (Battle Creek from David Shore …
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Steve Mosko has quietly renewed his deal as president of Sony Pictures Television. This year marks Mosko’s 20th anniversary at Sony, where he oversees the entire global TV business: production, distribution and channels. I hear he was a frontrunner for the CEO of Tribune job but chose to stay. The exact length of Mosko’s new multiyear deal is unclear; his most recent contract was for four years. He reports to Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal.
Mosko, who joined Sony in 1992 as a syndie sales executive, was named domestic TV president in 2001 when Sony’s chief executive Howard Stringer had dramatically downsized the company’s U.S. operation to a point of almost ceasing TV production. Over the past decade, Mosko has rebuilt the company’s domestic TV business. Sony became the first major studio to embrace cable with FX’s The Shield, Rescue Me, Damages, followed by AMC’s Breaking Bad and FX’s Justified among others. It has Masters Of Sex coming up on Showtime.
Additionally, Sony is the only major studio that produces all forms of TV programming — primetime network and cable scripted series (Rules Of Engagement, Community, Happy Endings, upcoming Last Resort and Made In Jersey), daytime talk shows (Dr. Oz, upcoming Queen Latifah talker), daytime soaps (Days Of Our Lives, The Young And The Restless), syndicated game shows (Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy!), reality shows (Shark Tank), TV movies (History hit Hatfields & McCoys, Lifetime’s upcoming Steel Magnolias), as well as digital programming (multi-platform video network Crackle). In 2009, Mosko added oversight of Sony TV’s international TV division, including Sony’s 120 international TV channels and local production (Sony TV has been the most active in setting up local versions of U.S. comedy hits like Married… With Children, The Nanny and Everybody Loves Raymond).
Longtime Sony Pictures TV top PR executive Paula Askanas has been promoted to EVP Communications. She oversees business and trade press and internal communication for the company worldwide, reporting to SPT president Steve Mosko. “Paula’s ability to understand both a variety of businesses, as well as the diverse needs of our global operations, has made her a tremendous asset to the company,” Mosko said. Askanas, who joined the studio as a director working with consumer press, was subsequently promoted to VP and SVP and added international communications oversight a year ago. SPT has more than two dozen shows in production in the US; internationally, it has 15 wholly or jointly owned production companies and 120 channels.
Andrea Wong Tapped As President Of Int’l Production At Sony Pictures TV & President International At Sony Pictures Entertainment
EAfter a year and a half away from the spotlight, Andrea Wong is rejoining the executive ranks with top international positions at Sony Pictures Entertainment. The former CEO of Lifetime, who had been rumored for virtually every high-profile TV executive job that became available in the past 18 months, has been named President of International Production for Sony Pictures Television and President of International for SPE. She will be based in London.
In her SPT position, Wong will head the studio’s international TV production business, reporting to SPT president Steve Mosko. She will oversee SPT’s 15 owned and joint venture international production companies. Wong will shepherd the development of new formats as well as the local adaptations of SPT-owned formats, primarily on the unscripted side. The studio’s library of reality formats, which was boosted by the 2008 acquisition of Dutch company 2waytraffic, includes Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Dragon’s Den and Pyramid. Additionally, SPT has been setting up local versions of its daytime talk show Dr. Oz and some of its library sitcoms, including The Nanny, Married … With Children and Everybody Loves Raymond. It was Wong’s successful tenure as head of alternative and late-night at ABC, where she developed such hit franchises as The Bachelor, Dancing With the Stars and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, that was key in landing her the SPT job, which is skewed heavily towards reality. “Andrea’s business acumen and her role in developing successful unscripted programming like Dancing With the Stars and The Bachelor make her a perfect fit for SPT,” Mosko said.
Wong replaces Kees Abrahams, who is stepping down as president of international production for SPT. Abrahams, former CEO of 2waytraffic, had been overseeing SPT’s international production operations since 2waytraffic’s acquisition. “Kees’ entrepreneurial spirit has been instrumental to the growth of our television production business internationally and we thank him for all of his efforts,” Mosko said. Added Kees, “I think it is now time for me to pursue some new commercial opportunities, and I wish Sony well.”