Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sony Takes Another Big Step in Digital Distribution

I am excited by a report in yesterday's Variety on Sony's deal with SK Telecom of Korea. The new arrangement further expands Sony' s digital distribution of film content in Korea by adding a mobile element. Under the deal, SK Telecom will reportedly have the right to distribute a limited number of full-length films (including the Spiderman series) and television programs directly to mobile phones. (Sony already has a deal for day and date Internet releases of films in that market.)

As all of us in the digital media business recognize, mobile distribution is the next wave of expansion in direct distribution of content, and the mechanism which shows the most potential to give consumers the content they want, when and where they want it. This is the key to making money in the new digital entertainment environment.

Personally, I'm not sure that I'd want to watch an entire Spiderman film on my cell phone, but that is just a hardware issue. Lately, I've been watching some content on my son's Sony PSP, and it's really not bad for a mobile experience. The screen quality is great, although the speakers still leave a lot to be desired. You really need a headset to get any kind of decent sonic experience. But, the point is that hardware continues to improve, and as always, the availability of first-rate mobile content will provide the economic motivation to continue those technological developments.

Technology drives content, which drives better technology. Sony is really the only company in the world that plays a major role on both sides of that equation, so it makes sense that it would take the lead in that process. Kudos to Sir Stringer for continuing to take advantage of his company's unique market position by encouraging bold moves such as the SK Telecom deal. As the record companies have learned, this is not the time for timidity in the face of advancing technology. Among the major entertainment companies, I think Sony is perhaps the most courageous player on the field right now.

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