New Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida Outlines Shift Towards Content

Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images
Kazuo Hirai (left) and Kenichiro Yoshida

Yoshida laid out the company's direction at a corporate strategy meeting in Tokyo following the announcement of its $2 billion acquisition of a larger stake in EMI Music Publishing.

New Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said the Japanese conglomerate would shift its focus more in the direction of content and other recurring revenue generators at the announcement of its three-year business plan at its Tokyo headquarters on Tuesday morning.

"We announced today we will buy the 60 percent stake in EMI Music Publishing from Mubadala Investment; Sony already owned 40 percent of this catalog of millions of songs, including by The Beatles," said Yoshida, referring to the $2 billion deal announced just before the corporate strategy meeting, calling Sony's music publishing division "a stable, recurring revenue business and the biggest music publishing company in the world." 

Yoshida, who took over from Kaz Hirai on April 1, noted that this was the 50th anniversary of Sony's first move into entertainment with the founding of the CBS Sony Records joint venture in 1968. There was much speculation around whether Yoshida would be as keen a supporter of Sony Pictures and other entertainment businesses as his predecessor had been, but the new CEO has now already overseen two IP content acquisitions.

During the strategy briefing, Yoshida repeatedly referred to the importance of content, citing films including the box-office hit Jumanji and the Netflix series The Crown.

Anime IP, managed by Sony Music Japan, is another major element, said the exec, noting the profitability of the Fate/Grand Order mobile game, an anime-based property owned by the Japanese music division.

Expanding media networks will be another growth driver, according to Yoshida, especially in India, which will be the most populous country in the world within a few decades, but where only roughly two-thirds of households currently have a television.

"There will be less emphasis on short-term profit in the next three years and more on investing in creating recurring revenue businesses," said the CEO.  

Sony will build businesses around "communities of interest" that are created around movies, games and music, according to Yoshida. "Sony PlayStation is our largest 'community of interest' with 80 million monthly subscribers on the PlayStation Network," he said.  

The three-year plan will be a continuation of the reforms implemented by his predecessor, in which he played a leading role. 

Sony Corp. last month announced a set of stellar full-year financials, the result of the turnaround driven by Yoshida and Hirai. The new corporate plan will run until March 2021.