10. Sony Corporation

Revenues 2018/19: ¥ 4.105.234 billion (€ 31.480 billion)

Overview

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The Sony Corporation is the third largest Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer (after Hitachi and Panasonic). Since the late 1980s, Sony has also been active in the media business, first in the music, then in the film sector. For the IfM ranking, the sales figures of the Pictures, Music and Games divisions are added together.

General Information

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Head office:
1-7-1 Konan, Minato-ku
Tokyo 108-0075
Japan 
Telephone: 0081 3 6748 2111  
Website: sony.net/SonyInfo/IR/

Branches of trade:  Audio, video, television, consumer electronics (hardware), video games (hardware, software), film, financial services, semiconductors, accessories, computer hardware, mobile telephony    
Legal form: corporation (since 1958)
Finacial year:  01.04. - 31.03.
Founding year: 1946

Basic economic data

2018*2017201620152014

Revenue (¥ m)

8,6668,5447,6038,1068,216
Media Revenue ** 4,1053,7553,1143,0182,710
Net profit (loss) 91649173148(126)
Share price (date of balance, in US$) 41.1148.1933.7825.7827.13
Employees 114,400117,300128,400125,300131,700


* For Sony, the financial year ends on 31.03. (balance sheet date) of the following year.
** To calculate the media revenues the "Games", "Pictures" and "Music" divisions are aggregated.

 

Sales by division (¥ m)

20182017201620152014

Games 

2,310.8721,943.8121,581.5681,479.7751,292.146
Music807.489799.995630.767602.564541.692
Pictures986.8731,011.067901.230935.827876.314

Executives and Directors

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Management:

  • Kenchiru Yoshida, CEO & President
  • Hiroki Totoki, Chief Financial Officer
  • Shigeki Ishizuka
    Officer in charge of Electronics Products & Solutions Business
    Officer in charge of Storage Media Business
    Representative Director and President,
    President, Digital Imaging Group,
    Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Inc.
  • Ichiro Takagi
    Assistant to Senior Executive Vice President in charge of Electronics Products & Solutions Business
    Officer in charge of Home Entertainment & Sound Business
    Officer in charge of Consumer AV Sales & Marketing
    Officer in charge of Manufacturing, Logistics, Procurement and Engineering Platform
    Representative Director and President, Sony Home Entertainment & Sound Products Inc.
  • Toru Katsumoto
    Officer in charge of R&D
    Officer in charge of Medical Business
    President, R&D Center
    Senior General Manager, Corporate Technology Strategy Division
    Representative Director and Deputy President, Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Inc.
  • Shiro Kambe
    Officer in charge of Legal, Compliance, Corporate Communications,
    CSR, External Relations, Quality, Environment, Information Security and Privacy
  • Kazushi Ambe
    Officer in charge of Human Resources and General Affairs
  • Terushi Shimizu
    Officer in charge of Semiconductor Business
    Representative Director and President, Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation
    Representative Director and President, Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation
    Representative Director and President, Sony LSI Design Inc.
  • Michinori Mizuno
    Officer in charge of Music Business (Japan)
    Chairman and Representative Director of the Board, CEO, Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc.
  • Shigeru Ishii
    President, Representative Director, Sony Financial Holdings Inc.
  • Tsuyoshi Kodera
    Officer in charge of Digital Transformation Strategy
    Deputy President, Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Representative Director and Deputy President, Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.
  • Rob Stringer
    Officer in charge of Music Business (Global)
    CEO, Sony Music Entertainment
  • Anthony Vinciquerra
    Officer in charge of Pictures Business
    Chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
  • Toshimoto Mitomo
    Officer in charge of Intellectual Property and Business Incubation Platform
    Sony Group China Representative
    Senior General Manager, Startup Acceleration Division
  • Jim Ryan
    Officer in charge of Game & Network Service Business
    President and CEO, Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Representative Director and President, Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.

 

Board of Directors:

  • Kenichiro Yoshida
  • Hiroki Totoki
  • Shuzo Sumi
  • Kazuo Matsunaga
  • Tim Schaaff
  • Koichi Miyata
  • John V. Roos
  • Eriko Sakurai
  • Kunihito Minakawa
  • Toshiko Oka
  • Sakie Akiyama
  • Wendy Becker
  • Yoshihiko Hatanaka

    History

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    It took more than 40 years for Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita to create a global corporation and one of the most famous international brands. In 1946, the 25-year-old Morita, heir to a prominent rice wine dynasty, and the 13-year-old Ibuka founded the Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering). Despite difficult production conditions, the company was able to secure an important position in the new market for consumer electronics with products such as the first Japanese cassette recorder (1950) and the transistor radio "TR-55" (1955). With a view to international expansion, Morita decided in 1958 to rename the company "Sony" (from Latin "sonus", the sound). The new name was not only globally understandable and pronounceable, it also disguised Sony's origin. At that time Japanese products were considered inferior in the West.

    Starting in 1960 Sony massively penetrated the US market, where the company soon sold half of its total production. The launch of the Trinitron colour TV in 1968 was followed by a decade of extensive growth, which culminated in a traumatic defeat in the video format battle. The higher quality Sony Betamax standard was defeated by the cheaper VHS system from the Matsushita subsidiary JVC. The Betamax debacle forced Sony to rethink. Morita propagated the diversification of the now globally producing group and achieved high profits thanks to its innovations in consumer electronics, for example with the legendary Walkman in 1979, or the development of CD technology (1982, together with Philips). Later, the group entered the production of software and media content, especially since the Betamax standard had failed not least because Sony was unable to offer attractive video films.

    Sony acquired CBS Records, the largest record company in the world, for two billion dollars in 1988. Soon the company considered buying a Hollywood studio as the final consequence of its strategy to compete in the market for globally exploitable, US-based popular content. Through the mediation of "super agent" Michael Ovitz, then managing director of the talent agency CAA, the first takeover of a traditional major by a Japanese company took place in 1989. Sony bought the Columbia film company from the owner Coca-Cola for about five billion dollars. Since then Sony has been one of the Big Five in the film industry with Sony Pictures Entertainment.

    The first years in Hollywood turned out to be a fiasco. Peter Guber and Jon Peters, rather second-rate producers who only had one successful film ("Batman") to show for themselves, were appointed studio heads of Columbia/TriStar. But Guber and Peters attracted negative attention with confused personnel policies, nepotism and the misappropriation of Sony millions for private extravagances. The transfer fees and severance payments alone, caused by the constantly rotating personnel carousel, cost Sony at least two billion dollars. The mismanagement was reflected in failures at the box offices. Columbia and TriStar followed each other with expensive bankruptcies. In 1994, Sony made one of the highest losses in Japanese corporate history, with three billion dollars, which caused some to speak of "reparations for Pearl Harbor".

    After a stroke, the then 73-year-old president Morita retired from the company business in 1994. Norio Ohga became his successor as CEO and Nobuyuki Idei became the new Sony president. The latter was mainly responsible for the film division. He dismissed the hapless managers of Sony Pictures Entertainment and in November 1996 he made the experienced John Calley chairman of the Sony studios. Soon Sony Pictures was back in the black.

    In June 1999 Nobuyuki Idei succeeded Ohga as head of Sony. He reformed the corporate structure to prepare Sony for the digital age. "Ibuka was a transistor kid," Idei said, and "Morita was a walkman and Ohga was a CD kid. And we will be digital dream kids." Howard Stringer's appointment as CEO of the entire group in March 2005 was tantamount to a Sony internal revolution. For the first time, the giant corporation was not controlled by a Japanese and not by someone specialized in technology. But Stringer's predecessor Nobuyuki Idei's vision of a "multimedia entertainment company based on digital technology" did not become reality. It should give the company a profit margin of 10 percent from 2007, but in 2004 it was a meagre 1.5 percent.

    Stringer, on the other hand, was successful. As head of the Sony Corporation of America, he succeeded in turning the volatile film segment into a reliable profit earner. Stringer's "low-key management style" (Economist) and his knowledge of the entertainment industry probably helped him a great deal in restructuring the cinema division. Stringer also owed his rise to his consistent personnel policy. For example, he fired the extravagant US music director Tommy Mottola and replaced him with the cost-cutting Andrew Lack, who made the division fit for the merger with BMG.

    But towards the end of Stringer's term of office, Sony got into trouble again. The company was overtaken by the competition from the USA and its Asian neighbours left and right. The success of the Walkman in the 1970s and 1980s could not be transferred to the digital age. Apple now dominates the market for music players and smartphones. South Korean companies such as Samsung or LG have long since left the Japanese company behind with regard to televisions (the TV business is therefore to be spun off from the company). In addition, a certain amount of force majeure meant that Sony was set back even further: The earthquake/tsunami catastrophe in 2011 brought the Japanese economy to a standstill.

    In November 2013 Sony launched the PlayStation 4. On February 5, 2014 it was announced that Sony would sell its computer business (Vaio brand) to the Japan Industrial Partners Fund for 40 to 50 billion yen (300 to 370 million euros). It was then decided to cut 5,000 employees, 3,500 of them abroad. Japan Industrial Partners founded the company Vaio Corporation on July 1, 2014 (with a Sony share of 5%). In March 2016, Sony acquired for $750 million the 50% it did not yet own in Sony/ATV Music Publishing (the company that manages the rights to The Beatles, Taylor Swift and Elvis Presley, among others). And in May 2018, Sony announced the acquisition of a further 60 percent of EMI for $2.3 billion, increasing Sony's stake from 30 to 90 percent.

    Management

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    Kazuo Hirai was Sony CEO from 2012 to April 2018. Prior to that, he had successfully managed Sony's video game division and was considered the head of the global triumph of the Playstation. He initially left the film and music divisions to the experienced manager Michael Lynton. But after the sale of various electronics divisions and the PR disaster caused by the presumably North Korean hack of Sony Pictures' emails, Hirai realized the importance of Sony's media business for the company. As a reaction to the ongoing crisis, in May 2014 he arranged for him and other top managers to repay bonuses. The annual salary of the management team was thus roughly halved – a unique occurrence in the international world of media companies.

    Hirai's successor as CEO: Kenchiru Yoshida, previously Sony CFO and co-responsible for Sony's return to record profits. His plan, as he said in interviews during the business takeover, is to switch to start-up mode, so to speak, with Sony as an established company. To "tap into markets outside its core businesses" (mobility, robotics, healthcare, artificial intelligence). With regard to user behaviour in the entertainment industry, which is "increasingly developing into a subscription business": Sony already has a community of interests with around 80 million regular users via the entertainment platform "Playstation Network". The company is a leader in the scene and generates sales of around ten billion US dollars per year. In the future, Sony must "make better use of its position in the market", the platform could offer even more videos and music.

    Business Fields

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    As mentioned, the "Games", "Pictures" and "Music" divisions are added up for the calculation of media revenues.

    Games & Network Services
    Sony Interactive Entertainment produces, develops, designs, markets, sells and distributes the Playstation game console (currently, since 2013, still in its fourth generation) and operates various games development studios in Japan, the USA and Europe, including Naughty Dog, Team Gravity, Polyphony Digital, Bend Studio and Sucker Punch Productions. Playstation 4 has sold over 100 million copies worldwide since its release and is considered the "console with the largest user base".

    Music
    Sony Music Entertainment (New York), one of the world's three large major labels (alongside Universal and Warner) was operated as a joint venture with Bertelsmann (Sony BMG) from 2004 to 2008, before Sony took over BMG Music completely for 600 million euros. Sony Music owns labels like Columbia, Epic, RED and RCA Records.

    In November 2011 Sony Music took over the music publishing division of its former competitor EMI (EMI's recorded music division went to Universal) for 2.2 billion US dollars. Regulatory authorities in Europe and the USA approved the deal in June 2012. Sony/EMI is now by far the largest music publisher in the world.

    Pictures Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. and its subsidiaries (the Hollywood studios Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Animation, Sony Pictures Classics and TriStar Pictures) operate worldwide. The TV production segment produces the full range of formats: scripted and unscripted formats, "light entertainment", game shows, animation, TV movies and mini-series. In 2007, Sony launched its own advertising-financed streaming portal "Sony Crackle" in the USA (until January 2018 only "Crackle").

    Current developments

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    "Sony is defying activist investor", boerse.ARD.de reported on 17.9.2019. Daniel Loeb and his hedge fund Third Point would demand a spin-off of Sony's chip division. It was the second attempt. Already six years ago, when Loeb had taken a seven percent stake in Sony, he had pushed for a sale of the film studio. Sony CEO Hirai said no at the time, Loeb sold his Sony share at a profit. Now, in 2019, Loeb threw an eye on the chip division, invested about 1.5 billion dollars in Sony, and was rebuffed once again. This time the new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida had to take care of Loeb. Yoshida: "Keeping the chip division is the best long-term strategy to increase shareholder value."

    In mid-May 2019, Reuters announced: "AI, streaming and image sensors: Microsoft and Sony are teaming up". Sony and Microsoft, as manufacturers of the two competing game consoles PlayStation and Xbox, actually rivals, wanted to join forces in a strategic partnership and work together on cloud applications, and also cooperate in the areas of AI and streaming games. This would be a strengthening especially in the competition with Amazon. Amazon, which grew up as an Internet retailer, is now the market leader in the cloud business and has recently also entered the games market.

    Finally: Compared to the smartphone market, for example, the production cycle for game consoles is much slower. Sony officially introduced the current Playstation 4 in February 2013. Sometime in 2020, at the latest in the pre-Christmas period (nobody knows exactly), Sony will launch a new model: The Playstation 5. What is already known: The graphics should support an 8K resolution, there will be another controller, which will let players feel the 100 gigabyte games better through more precise short vibrations. Further it is speculated that the console can also be used as a 4K-Bluray player and the graphics should be able to "ray-trace". So that the games become even more realistic. Sony has not yet named a price. However, the OTT streaming service "PlayStation Vue", available in the US, will be shut down. The offer of live, sports and other entertainment channels has been available to Playstation users since 2015, but without success. In September 2018 there were only 745,000 subscribers, on 30.1.2020 "PS Vue" was discontinued.

    Further Reading

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    Hiroko Tabuchi: How the Tech Parade Passed Sony By (New York Times, 14.4.2012)
    John Nathan: Sony: The Private Life. Boston, 1999

    Content

    Institute of Media and Communications Policy

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    Germany's Federal Agency for Civic Education,

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    the city of Cologne, Germany,