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Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton says the hack that rocked his studio in fall 2014 is “in the rear-view mirror at this point.”
Speaking Thursday at the Code/Media conference in Dana Point, Calif., Lynton described walking around Sony’s Culver City lot and “you absolutely get the sense that it’s in our past.”
But the hack has left some permanent changes. For example, the exec now uses his fax machine at least once a day. “It’s surprising how quickly you can write something down on paper and shove it in the fax,” he said. “But sometimes slowing things down a minute, that’s not the worst thing in the world. What you say in haste at three in the morning … is not necessarily the best way to say what you want to say.”
Thursday’s broad interview spanned Lynton’s views on the state of the film, TV and music businesses. Here are the highlights:
Reaching Peak TV
Lynton, who related he recently discussed the the topic of “too much TV” over lunch with FX chief John Landgraf, said that he doesn’t think that viewers have had their fill of TV. “It doesn’t appear, at this point in time, that we’ve come anywhere near” filling the audience’s appetite, he said, though he did acknowledge that the effects of the boom in original TV comes with the strains on creative talent. “It requires enormous skill to be a showrunner,” he added, while also noting that he believes more creatives are coming to work in the TV industry than ever before.
The one area where Lynton feels the industry will contract is in the number of new entrants joining the original programming fray. “Everybody and their brother is jumping in and making originals … it’s not easy to be in TV,” he said. “The business is expensive. If it doesn’t work, eventually they’ll say, ‘It’s not for us.'”
Does Windowing Work?
Lynton started his discussion of the theatrical windowing model by explaining that when he was a child, many stores were closed on Sundays. “You just couldn’t get something then,” he said. “Now, everybody thinks, rightly, that you can buy things 24/7.” The CEO believes that this change has made the concept of windowing confusing to consumers. But the strategy has “born enormous fruit for the movie studios,” he said. “It’s been very profitable for the people participating.” When asked about whether windowing promotes piracy, Lynton responded, “I’m not sure. The data doesn’t really entirely prove up on that.”
Music Mirroring Movies
The executive predicts that the music industry will adopt a windowing strategy similar to the film industry, where an album is not immediately available via streaming. He pointed to Sony Music artist Adele not releasing her latest album, 25, on streaming services. “What you will see going forward ultimately is that you will see some version of windowing in the music industry,” said Lynton. “As we all know, the physical business is headed downhill. We all see the download business is declining every quarter.”
Lynton, a longtime Snapchat board member, said that he uses the messaging app to talk to his nieces and nephews. Over the last several years, he said, Snapchat founder and CEO Evan Spiegel has “become a much more mature executive” while remaining focused on product. “He’s a terrific product designer and innovator,” added Lynton. Spiegel and co-founder Bobby Murphy call on Lynton for counsel on the logistics of growing their business, and unsurprisingly he’s bullish on the future of the company. He explained that it’s all about how the phone and camera are being used to interact with others. “You’re using your camera as the lens through which you communicate with the world,” said Lynton.
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