The WarnerMedia-Discovery merger and Amazon's blockbuster deal for MGM have heightened industry curiosity about the future of Sony's film and TV unit.
Sony Pictures is not for sale, nor will it be spun off as a stand-alone company anytime soon, says Sony Group CEO Yoshida Kenichiro.
The rapid consolidation seen across the screen sector — such as Amazon’s $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM and WarnerMedia’s high-profile merger with Discovery — has fueled industry speculation about Sony Pictures’ future. And the company’s strategic decision to act as a content supplier to established streamers rather than launching a flagship direct-to-consumer service of its own has made it something of an outlier in the streaming era. Meanwhile, the high price tag Amazon payed for MGM, which is a significantly smaller operation than Sony Pictures, underscored the enormous value Sony Group could potentially command for its film and television operations should it be open to parting with them.
“There is drastic realignment in the media industry, but I think our strategy of creating content as an independent studio while working with various partners will work,” Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida told the Financial Times on Wednesday.
Yoshida also was adamant that Sony Pictures should remain part of the Sony Group, rather than being spun off as some activists investors have advocated for in the past. During Yoshida’s tenure, Sony has pursued a strategy of linking and leveraging its various entertainment services across gaming, anime, music and film. Blockbuster PlayStation games like Uncharted and Twisted Metal are being developed into feature films, while anime properties like the blockbuster Demon Slayer franchise have proved money spinners across TV, film and music.
“The PlayStation project has tremendous momentum with the establishment of PlayStation productions and ten projects already in development,” said Sony Pictures Entertainment chief Tony Vinciquerra during an investor day presentation Thursday.
Central to Sony’s strategy are the two recently unveiled licensing deals with Netflix and Disney+. Beginning in 2022, Netflix will have exclusive first-pay-window rights to all Sony Pictures films following their theatrical and home entertainment windows. For their next window, the films will then shift to Disney-owned streaming services Disney+ and Hulu, as well as to Disney’s linear TV networks, including ABC, Disney Channels, Freeform, FX and National Geographic. Both deals cover Sony’s entire 2022-26 theatrical slate.
“I think the reason we were able to sign good deals with Netflix and Disney is because they were attracted to our PlayStation Productions pipeline. We can strengthen our ability to create content through such group-wide collaboration,” Yoshida said.
Vinciquerra added Friday that Sony has the capability to develop and produce far more films than the 12-15 theatrical titles that it typically releases annually. The SPE chief said the studio plans to exploit the streamers’ ravenous demand for content by producing a significant additional number of mid-budget titles for direct release over streaming platforms. In all cases, Sony will retain ownership of the films, licensing them for limited windows to its streaming partners.
Sony’s most anticipated upcoming theatrical tentpoles include Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Morbius.