Sony Pictures up 6.5% but group down

Film sales up on strong showings by 'Terminator' and 'Angels'

TOKYO -- Sony Pictures was once again a rare bright spot in the conglomerate’s earnings, as the group – still suffering from the slowdown and the strong yen -- posted a first quarter net loss of $386 million on Thursday.

Group sales fell to $16.665 billion or 1.6 trillion yen, down 19.2% in yen terms, but only down 11% in local currencies – the strength of the yen devaluing Sony’s overseas earnings.

Sales at Sony Pictures were up 6.5% (+15% in dollars) to $1.77 billion on the back of strong showings by “Angels & Demons” and “Terminator Salvation,” as well as higher income from U.S. network and cable programming, and improved ad revenue from the Indian Premier League cricket broadcasting.

The Pictures division contributed 1.8 billion yen ($19 million) in operating income, compared to a loss of 8.3 billion yen in the first quarter of 2008 -though it was one of the only divisions to avoid posting a full-year loss for 2008.

The newly-named Networked Products & Services division, the former game division, plus PCs and digital music players, saw a return of red ink, losing $414 million on weaker PlayStation 3 (PS3) and PlayStation Portable (PSP) sales, after finally posting a small profit last year.

Sales of the PS3 fell from 1.6 million units in the same period last year to 1.1 million, while PSP sales dived from 3.7 million to 1.3 million consoles.

This meant both of Sony’s newer consoles were once again outsold by the PS2 which actually increased sales to 1.6 million -- the price reduction to $100 and 100 euros proving a hit in the current economic climate.

Sales figures for Sony Music almost doubled to $1.13 billion due to the acquisition of BMG’s half of the SONY BMG joint venture, effective October 2008. Operating income, also boosted by the acquisition, was up 15.6% to $56 million, while overall sales fell 19% due to the shrinking CD market.