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Insights: Conversations With the Captains of the Industry — Man Jit Singh

31 Oct, 2016

Man Jit Singh

With 'Insights: Conversations with the Captains of the Industry,' Home Media Magazine dives a little deeper into the thought processes of the home entertainment industry’s key executives for insights on trends, developments and challenges as the business becomes increasingly fractionalized.

In this segment, we speak with Man Jit Singh, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, where he is addressing the evolving home entertainment market by focusing on product innovation, enhancing the consumer value proposition, and growing SPHE’s new formats and high-margin businesses. Singh took charge of SPHE in January 2014, taking the reins from industry veteran David Bishop. Singh previously was CEO at Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), and he continues to hold the position of non-executive chairman at SPN. Under Singh, Sony Pictures Television’s Indian TV networks leveraged changing technologies and consumer behaviors to grow into some of the most profitable and highest-rated channels in the market.

Home Media Magazine: What is one thing every home entertainment studio executive should be thinking about at this point?
Man Jit Singh:
Physical discs are still the majority of our business, but consumer behavior is changing fast and we have to make sure we are offering compelling entertainment that presents a good value for our consumers across our range of products.

HM: How do we get consumers to value ownership? EST sales gains have slowed, after an initial bump due to early windows, and disc sales, while still accounting for the bulk of sellthrough, are half what they were 10 years ago. What steps should we be taking to rekindle both digital and physical sales?
We need to provide consumers something unique that comes only with ownership, and we need to accept that we are increasingly competing with free or nearly-free content and make sure we are offering our consumers the right price-value relationship. Digital ownership is still hampered by a lack of flexibility. Industry efforts at interoperability have helped, but there is more that can be done to improve the value of owning digital content. With bonus features, content initially moved from physical into digital without much of a rethink. SPHE has been a strong advocate for digital movie extras that take advantage of the interactive nature of digital platforms. We are also very enthusiastic about the possibilities that virtual reality offers the home entertainment industry. Though it’s still early days, we are encouraged by the response to our VR experiences for The Walk, Goosebumps and Ghostbusters. In many markets, we’ve bundled mobile VR experiences with purchases of the film. Finally, the quality of the experience matters. People love watching movies at home, and they love their home theater set-ups. We need to continue to innovate and push the industry forward with high-quality formats like 4K, HDR and immersive audio.

HM: Are there more ways to monetize our content we should be thinking about — other sales channels and avenues than the traditional ones?
At SPHE, we are looking at many different ways to monetize our content, both in terms of channels and also how audiences can consume and engage with our content. SPHE has been aggressive about finding new opportunities to do more with the content we own, like launching ULTRA, the 4K HDR digital movie service we debuted earlier this year, and developing new content like the premium VR experience we created for Ghostbusters.

HM: Streaming and OTT have certainly grabbed the public’s attention, particularly the younger millennials. They see music and other forms of entertainment as more transitory than collectible, something to be enjoyed in the moment, without the pressing need to own and store. Is there a way to change this mindset to encourage ownership among younger consumers, or are there other ways to monetize content besides the sales transaction, which has always been something of a Holy Grail in our business?
We need to offer consumers content in the ways that they want to consume it. Ultimately, ownership is about access. Consumers are willing to spend more on models that allow them greater quality and greater flexibility, which is why we were among the first studios to launch digital lockers, early EST and 4K EST.

HM: Are we, as a business, dismissing the disc too soon? Danny Perkins, CEO of StudioCanal UK, on a recent earnings call said, “For the last 10 years, people have been saying there are only two years left in DVD and it is going to drop off a cliff. Here we are 10 years later, and it is still going strong.”  He says that while margins on disc aren’t as lucrative as they were 10 years ago, they’re still strong enough to warrant marketing, etc. Similarly, Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns in August told an investor group packaged media shores up underperforming theatrical releases. “The DVD business is going to be around a lot longer than people think. It’s still a massive business for us. It’s not going away.”
Physical discs will be around for a long time — and we have seen a great response to the superb new 4K Ultra HD disc format that launched earlier this year. 4K HDR content is still best experienced on disc. DVD and Blu-ray remain 70% of the business, and an important part of the economics of filmmaking, but digital’s share of the market is steadily increasing. It is important that every studio redouble its focus on providing the best possible value to the consumer across our range of products — physical and digital — and continue to innovate around both the products themselves and the way we deliver them to the end consumer. 

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