In a keynote Q&A Tuesday morning at the WSJD Live 2015 event in Laguna Beach, Calif., Hirai also reaffirmed his company’s intent to stay in the entertainment business and praised synergies across the more media-relevant aspects of Sony that keep them on the cutting edge.
“I think that there’s not much impact from a business perspective,” said Hirai of the hack. “I think there was impact from a very short time on the morale of the employees who had their emails (hacked) and all those bad things. i think they’ve come around.”
While Hirai didn’t go so far as to name the executives running his studio operations, he gave them a clear vote of confidence. “I was in Culver City just yesterday and, as a result of the incident that we have, i think Sony Pictures has come out more resilient, more strong and have a very good management team in place now,” he said.
Hirai didn’t offer much detail on how Sony is taking a more aggressive approach to cybersecurity, but described how the hack forced the company to take additional measures.
“We had to go through that learning curve,” he said. “As a result, we have reviewed a lot of our procedures and we are a stronger organization because of that.”
Though Sony’s long-term commitment to staying in the entertainment business has been a constant subject of speculation going back many years, Hirai offered an unambiguous reaffirmation about the company’s continued interest in motion pictures, TV and music. “Our entertainment business is an essential growth driver for the business going forward,” he said.
As for recent reports that Sony is reconsidering its partnership with the Michael Jackson estate for Sony/ATV Music Publishing, all Hirai would confirm was that he was re-evaluating the ownership structure. “We don’t know if we’re buyers or sellers, we just initiated that process,” he said. “There’s a lot more of the process that goes forward.”
Another growth driver Hirai identified for Sony was Playstation, which is adding a virtual-reality headset component to its business, Playstation VR (previous known as Project Morpheus). Because of the tremendous creative implications of this medium, there is plenty of time spent between those working on the new technology and those on the content. side of the business, according to Hirai.
“Folks at Sony Pictures have spent a lot of time with Sony Pictures Entertainment to show what the technology can do, what it means for the creative process,” he said. “There are a lot more discussions happening today than there ever was.”
Another synergy Hirai identified was with the television manufacturing business, which Sony recently returned to profitability after years of huge losses and considerable cost-cutting. As to why Sony remains in the business, Hirai cited both the branding Sony gets from such a central device in consumer living rooms and the “rub off” that research and development on the picture quality of Sony screens delivers for its other businesses.