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Sony Reorganizes for Digital Future

12 Apr, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

In the third major studio shakeup related to digital delivery, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment April 12 announced a massive reorganization that finds division president Benjamin Feingold getting a new title and new responsibilities.

Feingold, president since 1994, becomes president of worldwide home entertainment, digital distribution and acquisitions. Already the studio's point person for Blu-ray Disc, Feingold also will lead the charge into other digital territories, including Internet downloads and VOD.

Feingold has added to his senior management team a troika of executives. David Bishop will oversee Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's North American business, Matt Brown will oversee the division's European business, and Sean Carey will head its digital distribution business.

Bishop, the longtime head of MGM Home Entertainment, had joined Sony last May as president of worldwide brand integration, a position created to manage Sony's assumption of the MGM catalog. His new title: president, North America, for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. He reports to Feingold.

Brown, previously SVP of worldwide franchise properties, becomes EVP, Europe. He will report to Adrian Alperovich, newly upped to SEVP, international, from EVP, international.

Carey, previously SVP of corporate development for Sony Pictures Entertainment, becomes EVP, digital distribution and product acquisitions, for SPHE. Like Bishop, he reports to Feingold. He will focus on developing and managing the North American distribution of movies and other content via the Internet as well to mobile devices such as cell phones and PSPs. He also will oversee all business aspects of the home entertainment unit's production and acquisition group, as well as negotiate key acquisition agreements.

“This month, we started selling movies through digital downloads over the Internet, and next month, we begin to sell Blu-ray discs for the very first time,” Feingold said. “With the digital market poised for growth, now is the time for us to organize ourselves to reap the full benefits of this new era, and to maintain and expand our leadership position in the home entertainment market.”

Feingold added that one reason for the reorganization is to remove him from day-to-day operations and give him more time to look at distribution from a “big picture” perspective.

“We need to expand our digital business,” he said. “It's very nascent, but what's going to happen over the next few years is going to be very significant. At the same time, we need to continue to build out our Blu-ray Disc supply chain, and we need to control that very carefully.”

Bishop, meanwhile, said he looks forward to getting back into the trenches.

“As a division, we've been very much focused in the past year on tactical assets of the business, as we integrated MGM into the fold,” he said. “Now, we're really poised to take the strategic opportunities we have in the marketplace, with the combined product lines of MGM and Sony. The industry is challenging these days, and will require even more innovation and risk-taking and flexibility than we had in the past.”The reorganization comes after similar shuffles at Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video. At Paramount, worldwide home entertainment president Thomas Lesinski earlier this year was tapped to head the studio's new Digital Media Group, with his former counterpart at DreamWorks Home Entertainment, Kelley Avery, slipping into his old post.

Last October, Warner Home Video became part of a new digital entertainment group headed by Kevin Tsujihara, who reports directly to Warner chairman and CEO Barry Meyer and president and COO Alan Horn. Longtime home video chief Jim Cardwell was ousted, and his replacement, Ron Sanders, reports to Tsujihara.

In each case, the reorganizations were driven by a desire to better manage and prepare for changes in content distribution.

“The changes in technology and consumer interests demand that we be innovative and visionary in our approach to home entertainment,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. “The digital market has evolved to the point where it has earned its own place in our home entertainment business… and that's why we're making the strategic moves necessary to ensure that we aggressively market this business in the months and years ahead.”

Sony's new download business, through Movielink and CinemaNow, is of particular import, said Amy Pascal, chairman of the Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Pictures Group.

“While nothing can replace the theatrical experience, we want people to have the opportunity to see our movies in their homes or wherever they desire,” Pascal said. The Internet can make it easier for more people to see more of our films, and we're proud to be opening up this new avenue to entertainment.”

In addition Alpervich's promotion, Feingold also announced several other promotions among his core management team.

Robin Russell has been named SEVP and GM worldwide for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and continues to report to Feingold.

Marshall Forster has been upped to SEVP, North America, and now reports to Bishop.

Lexine Wong has been promoted to SEVP worldwide marketing, and will report to Feingold on the international and new-format side and to Bishop on the domestic front.

All three previously were EVPs.

Also promoted: Don Eklund to EVP of advanced technologies, from SVP, and James Mercs to EVP and GM of Sony Pictures Digital Authoring Center, from SVP and GM.

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