Sony taps 2 key digital players

Sony Pictures Entertainment put an exclamation point on its commitment to growing its Digital Studios division Tuesday with two key appointments of an SPE veteran and an experienced newcomer.

Bill Humphrey, a 14-year man with SPE, has been named executive VP in the division, being given oversight of integrated strategies for the entire division, especially where liaison duty with other divisions of SPE is called for.

Additionally, Humphrey will oversee the studio’s digital infrastructure, feasibility work on new entertainment technologies and development and implementation of new production and post-production hardware and software throughout the division.

These portfolios are in addition to Humphrey’s already full plate of duties, which include managing the SPE High Definition Center, the DVD Center, satellite operations and several other aspects of the Digital Studios’ operations.

Tim Sarnoff, former creator and chieftain of Warner Bros.’ Digital Studios and a senior executive of its Television Animation division, comes to SPE as exec VP of Sony Imageworks, the studio’s inhouse visual effects wonderworks.

In his new slot, Sarnoff will bear responsibility of the house’s overall operations and management, including wrapping up work at Imageworks on two major productions, TriStar Pictures’ “Starship Troopers” and Warner Bros.’ “City of Angels.”

“With a strong management structure now in place, the Digital Studios division is positioned to allow SPE to fully capitalize on digital technology resources throughout the Sony family,” said Digital Studios prexy Ken Williams, to whom both men will report on the Culver City lot. Sarnoff will also report to Imageworks president Ken Ralston on creative issues at the facility.

Humphrey joined the studio’s previous parent company, Coca-Cola, in 1983 and has held a number of senior management positions, including the general manager’s chair at SPE’s Film and Tape Operations in suburban New York.

The new appointments underscore Williams’ intention — and those of his superiors in Tokyo — to position the Digital Studios structure to cut across all lines of production at Sony and to place all the digital or proto-digital assets under one management team. The current management staff, all of whom are under the sovereignty of SPE executive VP Yuki Nozoe, will also bend all R&D projects to fold into the Digital Studios mandate.

“The Digital Studios division will be an important platform for the launch of the next generation of Sony entertainment products,” Nozoe said.

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