Sony taps into international markets

U.S. film, TV hits reach out to global viewers

While American politics may not travel well overseas, its entertainment does exceedingly well.

Michael Grindon, president of Sony Pictures Television Intl., knows the value of U.S. hits — both theatrical and smallscreen — and how they can resonate with global audiences in a very positive way.

Grindon and his team are responsible for Sony’s film and television distribution to networks in all corners of the globe, which, at last count, stands at about 130 countries and 300 million viewers.

“The international markets are vibrant at the current time,” Grindon says. “In different parts of the world, especially Asia and in Spain, with new channels launching, we’re seeing new opportunities.”

Few, if any, other countries are able to produce movies and/or shows that are as expensive as those that come from the States. Sony’s megahit “Spider-Man 3,” for example, had an estimated budget of just more than $250 million, and foreign TV audiences have gotten accustomed to that caliber of high-cost entertainment.

“Global audiences are looking for American product. Theatrical pictures from the U.S. are hard to replicate,” Grindon explains. ” ‘Spider-Man’ is very important to global broadcasters. It works for everyone across the board.”

On the TV side, Sony Intl. continues to see revenue from seminal comedies such as “Seinfeld” as well as current FX hits “The Shield” and “Rescue Me” and Showtime’s “The Tudors.” The recently launched drama “Damages,” which received excellent reviews Stateside and has five-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close in the lead, is about to premiere overseas and sold extremely well at the L.A Screenings in May.

That’s not to say that U.S. and worldwide audiences are always on the same page.

“Kidnapped,” for example, starring Jeremy Sisto and Dana Delany, looked like it would be embraced by foreign viewers, but the show died a quick death on NBC last fall and never had a chance to flourish overseas.

To wit, a show’s international potential is irrevocably tied to its domestic track record. If it doesn’t do well in the States and is pulled from the network schedule, its long-term global prospects become irrelevant.

Grindon is quick to credit Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairs Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton for understanding the breadth of the international division, and what it can deliver to the studio’s coffers.

“Michael and Amy are tuned into the international arena,” Grindon says. “Michael comes in with a global background, working for AOL Intl. Plus, we’re owned by a Japanese company and run by a Brit (Howard Stringer).”

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