Sony film mess reflects gadget-entertainment gap

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By Elaine Kurtenbach, AP

TOKYO–Sony’s iconic gadgetry and the star appeal of Hollywood may have appeared to be a perfect match when the electronics giant bought Columbia Pictures in 1989. A quarter century later, it’s apparent that Sony Corp. has not attained the magic synergy it was hoping for.

The stolid silence of Sony’s Tokyo headquarters over the hoopla surrounding Sony Pictures Entertainment’s ��The Interview�� underscores the longstanding divide between the Japanese parent company and its U.S.-led and -run motion pictures subsidiary, successor to Columbia Pictures.

Marrying the cultures of Sony Corp., a quintessentially Japanese company, and its Hollywood studio was such a challenge that company founder Akio Morita and his successor as chairman, Norio Ohga, never really tried, analysts say. Instead, they left Sony Pictures to mostly run itself.

��They’re separate businesses run by separate management,�� said Damian Thong, a senior analyst at Macquarie Capital Securities (Japan). ��Since the late 1990s it’s been run basically as a stand-alone business.��

Sony Corp. in Tokyo refused requests for comment on developments related to ��The Interview,�� referring all inquiries to Sony Pictures in the U.S. After first withdrawing the movie from a planned Christmas release on as many as 3,000 screens, Sony Pictures made the movie available on various digital platforms Wednesday, a day after Sony and independent theaters agreed to release it in over 300 venues on Christmas.

There were no plans to release the movie in Japan, even before hackers objecting to its satirical portrayal of an assassination of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un staged a massive cyberattack on Sony Pictures. Sony Failed to Catch the Stream As entertainment has shifted to digital delivery systems, technology analysts say it has become increasingly clear that Sony botched an opportunity to outdo Apple in creating a far more influential and valuable business from melding its consumer electronics expertise with ownership of a major movie studio and recording label.

The lack of integration between Sony’s main divisions carries throughout the group and is among the reasons why the once iconic electronics giant has fallen behind, says Sea-Jin Chang, author of ��Samsung vs. Sony�� and a business professor at Singapore University.

Looking back, Chang believes Sony’s 1989 acquisition of Columbia Pictures was mainly a trophy purchase driven by Morita’s personal whims.

��They made all the possible mistakes they could make in an acquisition,�� Chang said. ��It was driven by ego. It suffered from bad implementation. If you teach a class on M&A (mergers and acquisitions) this is the case study on how not to do it,�� he said.