Sony’s Hirai Wants to Be a Buyer in the Media Consolidation Wave

Updated on
  • Movie division recovering after $1 billion writedown in 2017
  • Discussions on-going to make films based on Sony’s video games
Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai talks about his plans to expand the business beyond video games.

Kaz Hirai, chief executive officer of Sony Corp., wants to be a buyer in the wave of consolidation sweeping through the entertainment industry.

Sony recently talked to 21st Century Fox Inc. about acquiring its film and TV assets, Hirai said on Bloomberg Television at CES in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Though it eventually lost to Walt Disney Co., the Tokyo-based company wants to make sure “that we are in the driver’s seat and not in a situation where we have to give up control of the assets we have grown over the years.”

Theatrical films remain a top priority, according to Hirai, who also wants to expand TV production to “ride the wave of the growth in the industry.” He cited recent movie releases including “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which just toppled “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in weekend ticket sales. The studio ranked fifth at the box office last year, with North American ticket revenue of $1.09 billion.

“We need to make sure that first and foremost that we have a strong line-up in our motion-picture releases,” Hirai told Bloomberg’s Emily Chang. “I think we’re on a path to recovery in that space.”

Third Point LLC founder Daniel Loeb pushed Sony unsuccessfully for a partial sale of its entertainment business in 2013. Hirai resisted, only to take a $1 billion writedown in its movie division a year ago on poor film performance and falling DVD sales. Since then, he’s overhauled the unit’s management, with former Fox executive Tony Vinciquerra taking over from Michael Lynton last May.

Kazuo Hirai at CES on Jan. 8.

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

While he seeks deals, Hirai said the strategy is to continue shoring up his movie business, including better control of production costs and ensuring proper financing arrangements to attract top talent. He also hinted at the possibility of more movies based on PlayStation video games, which are part of the company’s most successful division.

“There’s also a lot of potential for tapping into our video-game IP for first party software we have through Sony Interactive Entertainment,” Hirai said. “Those discussions are on-going as well.”

— With assistance by Yuji Nakamura

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