Sony Execs Detail TV, Content Strategies

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#CES Las Vegas - Sony's top management detailed its 2012 TV and content market strategies during an international media roundtable Monday morning, a day after its International CES press event, here.

Sony Electronics' Howard Stringer, chairman, CEO and president; Kaz Hirai, executive deputy president and officer in charge of consumer products and service businesses; and Sony Electronics' U.S. president/COO Phil Molyneux fielded questions all things TV and Sony's special role in providing entertainment content via TV, tablets, smartphones, PCs and PlayStation.

Stringer began the roundtable by saying Sony has a three-pronged strategy - "networking, products and content" - and how they work together. "Can we get them right? That's what we are working on."

Molyneux said that for consumers in the U.S. who have high expectations for networked TVs, "we have some work to do to make a connectable TV a lot simpler to operate and provide greater support."

When asked if there was any serious discussion in the past year, as reported several times, that Sony was considering an exit from the TV business, Stringer said, "We have no plans to get out of the TV business. We did discuss how to cut commoditization ... and make it a good business. We feel it is by delivering unique content to the TV in the home, and we have to sustain it ... to find profitability. The TV screen is still the most powerful screen with the audience."

When asked if Sony's TV business will be profitable by March 2014 as projected by the company, Hirai expects it to be and said, "Our new crystal LED technology we are showing [at CES] will figure into it." Dissolving its flat-panel partnership with Samsung will save 50 billion yen, he said, and Sony is looking to "right-sizing our line, and increasing our TV share in overseas markets. We want to make sure we have an efficient line and not an overlapping line of TVs."

3D was supposed to be a major driver in the TV market since its introduction in 2010, and Hirai commented, "As with any new technology, it will take [time] before all TVs become 3D compatible. More content is becoming available," and he mentioned game software and movies such as Sony's own "Men In Black 3" to debut in theaters later this year. "Customers who have experienced 3D enjoy it. We are committed to 3D ... and backing it with a lot of R&D support."

When asked why Sony turned to crystal LED vs. OLED in flat screens, Stringer said, "It is the best TV out there and it is our technology. We are proud of it - it is in the high end where we will lead the [category's] recovery. We are proud that it is something of our own."

Hirai added that Sony has OLED on the pro side and that "as much as we are proud of the crystal screen, we are not out of OLED. We will continue to look at it, but there is nothing to talk about now."

When asked about the possible threat an Apple TV might be to the existing market, Stringer noted, "Early in this century Apple married hardware and content more effectively than we have. What our position is that [the market] doesn't need another box from Apple. Sony can provide a seamless experience with our TVs, Blu-ray players ... PlayStation to provide [Sony] content. We have to make that clear to customers and get consumers excited. We are in the game."

Hirai said that Sony's strategy for enjoying content is a "four-screen strategy of TVs, PCs, tablets and smartphones." Phones will be part of it since Sony Ericsson, now called Sony Mobile Communications, is now a full subsidiary of Sony and is "fully aligned" which means "all product development in one group and especially for networked products." And PlayStation and the handheld Vita device are also "important to Sony convergence story and profitability ... it is very pivotal."

Hirai said that it is the task of Sony, and the CE industry, to explain to consumers the advantages of smart TVs. "We have to let consumers know that connecting TVs online allows for additional content. When consumers first bought PCs, they connected the power line and then online. We have to explain to consumers that today's TVs should be the same ... which improves content ... and creates excitement."


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