Sony Serious About New Platforms

May 1, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Sony Pictures Television has big plans for digital television.

The studio has set up a division dedicated to creating original content for alternative distribution platforms, said Zack Van Amburg, co-president of programming and production for the company.

Sony’s strategy is “to look at multiple platforms and to have our shows live in multiple spaces, and especially from an originals standpoint, content that was designed for digital distribution.”

A Sony spokesperson said it was unclear whether the digital effort would be staffed separately or whether staffers in other units of the company would take on digital responsibilities. Sony last year named Michael Ross as mobile content manager, working on programming for cellphones.

The company is expected to name an executive to handle digital extensions for its upcoming “The Greg Behrendt Show.”

Sony is looking to create short-form digital content from three areas: library material, original content based on current programming and content unrelated to current television programming.

At least three products are in development, with two dealing with content unrelated to television program, the spokesperson said.

Mr. Van Amburg said that “Rescue Me 2.5,” a special 15-minute program that will first appear exclusively on AOL, then on video-on-demand and other platforms, is one of the first tangible results of the company’s strategy.

While the original scripted short is primarily a marketing tool, it’s a big step into the nonlinear world.

The studio got a license fee for about 80 percent of the half-million dollars it cost to produce the promotional program from FX, putting up the other 20 percent itself. It retains the copyright for the program.

“We are trying to be very aggressive and putting our money where our mouth is as it relates to creating content that’s specifically for that space,” Mr. Van Amburg said.

As demand grows for digital material from online portals, VOD providers and mobile operators, there is pressure on program producers to find acceptable business models that will not only create buzz but will generate revenues. And as an independent, broadband distribution may appeal to Sony, which has to work with networks and stations that may have corporate links to competing studios.

“We view the landscape as an evolving, changing landscape and we just want to be on the forefront, on the cutting edge of that, and therefore designing content that can be distributed in a nonlinear way is something we’re fully committed to as a studio,” Mr. Van Amburg said.

Sony also plans to create digital extensions for its other linear television shows. For the upcoming talker “The Greg Behrendt Show,” for example, the studio plans to “keep that show alive in the digital space on an ongoing basis with content that feels fresh and specifically designed for Internet users, for mobile phone users, allowing them to connect in,” Mr. Van Amburg said.