Sony will mine Lion’s library with video vet

MGM assets are put on display

Sony is making its first big move to take control of the library that fueled its $4.8 billion acquisition of MGM.

David Bishop, former prexy of MGM Home Entertainment, has been tapped president of worldwide brand integration strategy at Sony Pictures Entertainment, putting him in charge of integrating MGM’s assets into Sony’s DVD unit.

Reporting to SPE vice chairman Jeff Blake, Bishop will also supervise the linking of other MGM operations such as international film and TV.

Additionally, he will collaborate with SPE senior management, including home entertainment prexy Ben Feingold, in identifying and implementing business opportunities for MGM product.

Appointment marks the first confirmed hire by Sony of a former Lion exec. Former MGM production exec Elizabeth Cantillon and creative exec DeVon Franklin are overseeing MGM development for Sony, but their hires haven’t been announced.

Consortium that purchased MGM put Sony in control of its 4,000-title film library.

The first order of business for Bishop will be threading MGM’s existing home entertainment operation into Sony’s DVD activities. Bishop also will recommend which MGM content Sony initially should exploit in international TV and theatrical markets.

The MGM home entertainment integration process should be completed by early 2006, he said.

“There is an inherent library strategy that existed at MGM that has to be integrated into Sony,” Bishop said. “We need to orchestrate a smooth hand-off from management, sales and marketing perspectives. … There will be dialogue between the Sony and MGM people as to how best to market and sell (MGM) products.”

About 100 MGM employees are expected to shift into post-merger roles at Sony’s Culver City location. Many DVD employees already have left the company; others have agreed to stay on for up to a year to facilitate the combination of divisions.

Bishop declined to quantify staffing or layoffs.

Plans call for some operational changes that will start with MGM’s August disc releases. MGM releases before then — including June 7 rollout “Be Cool” — will be managed much as any previous titles.

Complicating integration activities is the fact that MGM handled each of its global DVD operations distinctively.

“There are so many moving parts,” Bishop said. “Each country around the world each has its set of circumstances that need to be worked out.”

Once MGM asset integration is completed, it remains to be seen how Bishop will fit in at Sony. He declined to talk about the matter, however.

DVD insiders have thought Bishop would eventually garner a more operational, hands-on role within Sony’s beefed-up disc operations.

“David’s strategic knowledge of content distribution and marketing will play a key role in maximizing the potential of our broadened portfolio and in targeting areas of future opportunities for the company,” Blake said of the appointment.

Bishop served two stints at MGM spanning 15 years, during which he supervised such operations as DVD, consumer products, online, vidgames, video-on-demand and pay-per-view. Between MGM gigs, Bishop was president and chief operating officer for LIVE Home Video.

(Susanne Ault is a reporter for Variety sister publication DVD Exclusive. Ben Fritz and Nicole LaPorte contributed to this report.)

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