Sony Pictures morphs e-media into one unit

Landau named prexy of Digital Entertainment division

Looking to ensure that the studio’s array of digital content units are in synch as all manner of electronic media continue to converge, Sony Pictures Entertainment is putting all its digital production divisions into a single new business unit.

SPE chairman and CEO John Calley has named 36-year-old SPE executive VP Yair Landau to the new post of president of Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, which will encompass computer-generated effects unit Sony Pictures Imageworks and online units Columbia TriStar Interactive and Sony Online Entertainment. Digital content areas of Sony Music are expected to be folded into the new unit soon. Landau will report to SPE co-president Yuki Nozoe and SPE co-president & chief operating officer Mel Harris.

Although Ken Williams will lose oversight of the Imageworks unit as president of SPE’s Digital Studios Division, he will continue to oversee DSD’s other operations, including the DVD Center, the High-Definition Center, Digital Post-Production and Digital Media Management. He will continue to report to Nozoe and assume additional responsibilities at SPE.

Targeting interactive TV

The interactive TV component of CTI that has worked with WebTV to create interactive television versions of “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” will become a separate area directly under Landau and the new unit. Landau said the company wants to increase emphasis on that component for interactive TV platforms of all kinds globally. Sony recently renewed its partnership with WebTV, which is owned by Microsoft.

Landau, who is based at Sony’s studios in Culver City, Calif., said CTI head Lynda Keeler in L.A. and Sony Online president Lisa Simpson in New York will remain in place, as will most of the management of staffs of those divisions. Those two units also could increase in size as they build up Sony’s online activities in games and brand extensions.

The new unit, which now has a combined 300 employees or so, will be responsible for the creation of digital production and computer-generated imaging for movies, TV, online content and Sony’s PlayStation videogames, as well as video-on-demand, interactive TV programming and services for broadband applications.

While Sony is not trying to compete with Internet portals such as Yahoo!, Landau said there is an opportunity to create specific types of branded and brand-extension content that will take advantage of high-speed broadband technology being accessed today in offices and on college campuses.

“We’re aggregating our tools in a way that will facilitate us moving in that direction a little bit faster,” Landau said, noting that the individual units didn’t have a unified vision.

The restructuring comes on the heels of Sony’s creation of the Broadband Services Co. earlier this month.

“We expect that broadband entertainment will evolve as one of the most important business initiatives in Sony’s portfolio,” Sony Corp. of America chairman and CEO Howard Stringer said.

Trinity of divisions

Sony Pictures Imageworks created the animated mouse for the movie “Stuart Little.” Sony Online is an online games service that runs the Station Web site with interactive versions of gameshows like “Wheel of Fortune.” CTI produces original online entertainment from SPE properties such as “Dawson’s Desktop” and Soapcity.com.

Landau joined SPE in May 1991 as director, financial planning and analysis. He was most recently executive VP of corporate development and strategic planning for the studio.

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