Sony's web runneth over

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Sony Corp. CEO Howard Stringer can look back at a year of progress. Sony Pictures Entertainment swung to an operating profit in the first nine months of the year compared with the same frame a year ago, with "Spider-Man 3" doing most of the heavy lifting. The PlayStation 3 got off to a rocky start late last year but is selling well after pricing adjustments.

Summary and outlook: Compared to its peers, Sony stock rocked, climbing 31.2% for the year as of Wednesday, while the other conglomerates have fallen or eked out just tiny gains. The electronics and film units boosted their bottom lines for the first nine months, and Sony Pictures Entertainment has exceeded $1.2 billion in U.S. boxoffice revenue, the sixth year in a row that the studio topped $1 billion. Sony also has maintained the lead its Blu-ray Disc DVD platform has over rival HD DVD, courtesy of the PS3, which comes equipped with Blu-ray. Some look for Blu-ray to make further progress in deciding the showdown in its favor in 2008. On the games front, Stringer has talked up the so-called PlayStation Network, which eventually will distribute movies, music and games. In October, Sony began selling the world's first organic LED television with a super-thin screen just 3 millimeters thick. So far, there are too few to meet demand. The units are only available in Japan thus far. Stringer also intends on not allowing Apple and Microsoft to easily encroach on Sony's once-dominant consumer electronics business, as Apple has most profoundly with its iPod and Microsoft with its Xbox 360.

THR rating: $$$$$ out of 5

Top performers:

Film: Spider-Man 3, Superbad, Ghost Rider
DVDs: Spider-Man 3, Open Season, Casino Royale
PS3 games: Resistance: Fall of Man, MotorStorm, Heavenly Sword

Rankings: Boxoffice by U.S. gross through Dec. 18; DVDs by total units; video games by sales


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