Electronics giant looms behind studio

Sony Pictures banks on new modes of delivery

Operating in a business overrun by new ways to deliver entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairs Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal find themselves overseeing the development of many different platforms at once.

With the fate of SPE’s sibling electronics unit — and its PlayStation 3 gaming system– riding on the success of Blu-ray, the pair are spearheading the quest for mass-market adoption of new high-definition physical media while simultaneously touting new digital delivery systems that utilize broadband and cell phones.

“We have to be conscious towards maximizing profitability in all platforms and to make sure that if we’re moving forward in one area, we’re not cannibalizing another,” says David Bishop, president, worldwide, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “The marketplace is more fragmented in terms of how people consume feature films, and we have to make sure we’re in a position where we can exploit them all.”

Having served a stint in the publishing world as chairman of Penguin Books, Lynton has an insight into the retail business, Bishop says, that’s unique among top execs for major film studios — it’s a background that comes in handy as Sony’s homevid unit looks for ways to better infiltrate Blu-ray movie and TV titles into big-box stores and homes.

Meanwhile, he notes Lynton’s AOL background is useful as myriad Sony divisions look to create and distribute digital content. Not only is the homevid division involved with nascent movie-download operations including Movielink, CinemaNow and Amazon’s Unbox, Sony Pictures Television — under the direction of prexy Steve Mosko — has a range of broadband and mobile distribution schemes in the works.

The unit’s Minisode network, for example, has generated 2 million views since launching in June on MySpace, condensing Sony properties — including older TV series such as “Charlie’s Angels,” “T.J. Hooker” and “Starsky & Hutch” — into 3½- to five-minute episodes. In early October, Sony will expand distribution of its Mobisodes to include other broadband outlets and mobile phones.

Meanwhile, in addition to developing an industry-leading slate of mobile games, Sony’s TV unit is making big inroads into user-generated content, readying the relaunch of vid site Crackle.com (acquired as Grouper.com last year for $65 million), which drew 25 million unique users in June.

Working in production support of all these initiatives is Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, which under the direction of prexy Yair Landau, not only produces computer f/x and animation for feature films but also a wide array of digital content for platforms including the PlayStation, broadband and mobile.

“I think we’re still in the infancy of broadband video,” Landau notes. “We’re just now seeing the beginning of IP video on the living-room screen.”

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