CBS Among Suitors Interested In Sony’s Film, TV Divisions

By January 23, 2017

Apparently there’s a lot more riding on the success of The Emoji Movie than people originally thought. Like whether Sony Corp. of America will remain in the film and television business.

Executives at the Tokyo-based company are rumored to be courting suitors interested in taking Sony Pictures Entertainment off its hands. That could mean popular franchises like Spider-Man, Ghostbusters and even the James Bond franchise could end up in someone else’s hands.

While it’s most likely to be sold to some Chinese conglomerate with deep pockets, The New York Post‘s Claire Atkinson hints CBS Corp. could use Sony as a stepping stone to get back into the film business.

Apparently, however, nothing definitive is going to happen until after Sony’s upcoming slate of films come out, including The Emoji Movie in August. The company apparently has a lot riding on that film, despite some early negative reaction to its trailers. Then again, they just convinced Patrick Stewart to voice a pile of poop, so maybe it’s not as bad as we thought.

Part of what has fueled speculation of a potential sale is the fact that chief executive Michael Lynton has left the company, and there’s been no hurry to put someone else in his office.

Sony CEO Kaz Hirai has denied any intent to sell the firm during the five years he’s been in the top slot at the company. Still, he has not appointed a successor to Lynton, despite knowing of his intention to depart for some time. That has sparked speculation that there may be no position to fill.

But why would Sony want to let go of a division that includes Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Television? Because apparently the market is just not what it used to be. At least as far as Sony is concerned.

Sony didn’t have a single film in the top 20 last year, according to The Numbers, with Ghostbusters its highest grossing movie at $128.4 million. Overall, Sony was ranked fifth among the major studios in 2016 with an 8.1 percent market share and total gross of $907.8 million. It was far off the pace set by the Walt Disney Co., which commanded a 26.1 percent market share last year and revenue of $2.9 billion.

Sony edged another struggling film studio, Paramount Pictures, but not my much. And Sony released more films – 25 compared to Paramount’s 18 – meaning Sony was earning just $36.3 million per picture, while Paramount was grabbing $46.9 million.

If somehow The Emoji Movie does well, it won’t mean Sony might change its mind. According to the New York newspaper, it simply means the Japanese company could command a higher price for the properties.

Sony currently has two films in the top 20 of the weekend box office, but not very high placed. Passengers stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, and has made a respectable $94.5 million in the past month. Kate Beckinsale’s Underworld: Blood Wars was a box office bomb, however, earning $28.6 million in 17 days.

The rumors haven’t help Sony’s share value too much on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares have been trading around $30, down from just under $34 in September.
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Michael Hinman

Michael Hinman

Managing Editor at GeekNation
Michael began what has become nearly 19 years of entertainment reporting as the founder of SyFy Portal, which would become Airlock Alpha after he sold the SyFy brand to NBC Universal. He's based out of New York City where he is the editor of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in the Bronx.