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Sony going digital

Feingold to lead download distrib'n unit

Sony Pictures on Wednesday became the second major studio to give its homevideo division a digital makeover, creating a new digital distribution division overseen by homevid prexy Benjamin Feingold.

Under the realignment, former MGM homevid topper David Bishop, who had been serving as president of worldwide brand integration for Sony, will oversee Sony’s North American DVD operations.

Sean Carey, formerly senior VP of corporate development at Sony Pictures, was named executive VP of the new digital distribution unit, where he will oversee Sony’s distribution of movies via the Internet as well as to mobile devices such as cell phones and PlayStation Portable game players.

Sony recently inked deals to sell permanent downloads of its new releases through Movielink and CinemaNow day-and-date with their release on DVD.

Carey and Bishop will report to Feingold, who is given additional duties as head of production and acquisitions for the studio’s Screen Gems division.

The moves by Sony follow a similar reorganization by Warner Bros., which created the Warner Home Entertainment Group in October to house both DVD sales and digital distribution under a single executive, Kevin Tsujihara.

Paramount also recently named former homevideo president Thomas Lesinski to the new post of digital media group prexy but kept the unit separate from the DVD division.

“The changes in technology and consumer interests demand that we be innovative and visionary in our approach to home entertainment,” Sony Pictures chairman-CEO Michael Lynton said. “The digital market has evolved to the point where it has earned its place in our home entertainment business.”

One goal of the new corporate structure is to integrate new distribution opportunities into the studio’s existing home entertainment business.

“It’s very important as digital develops to keep the (retail) relationship together,” Bishop said. “Wal-Mart has a very big DVD business, and anything they do on the digital side they need to do with an eye toward their DVD business, and we need to be there with them.”

Feingold said he expects both Wal-Mart and Amazon to be in the business of downloading movies before the end of the year. Brick-and-mortar retailers are expected to get involved as well.

While the new structure will put more emphasis at Sony on digital distribution, the studio is facing significant challenges to its core homevideo business.

In additional to flagging DVD sales, Sony is preparing to launch the Blu-ray Disc format in the face of a competing high-definition standard backed by Toshiba.

Several other Sony home entertainment execs will get new posts as part of the reorganization.

Industry veteran Matt Brown was named exec VP for Europe and will be based in London. He will report to Adrian Alperovich, who is upped to senior executive VP for international.

Also promoted to senior executive VP are Robin Russell (general manager, worldwide), Marshall Forster (North America) and Lexine Wong (worldwide marketing).

Don Eklund has been promoted to exec VP for advanced technologies and will report directly to Feingold.

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