Tag Archives: Sony

PlayStation Wants to be the New Netflix, but That Will Never Happen

PlayStation Powers

When I wrote about my 2015 resolutions for networks and streaming outlets back in December, I noted that “simply no room for anything less than the very best. Upstart content providers: is your new series as phenomenal as Orange is the New Black or Transparent? If the answer is no, don’t bother.”

PlayStation didn’t listen. On March 10, it launched its first original series, Powers, for its PlayStation Network. As I wrote at Quartz,

With its original series streaming plans, PlayStation Network had hoped to become the next Netflix, but given the lukewarm reception for Powers, it would have better off as the next Xbox: a brand that smartly bowed out of creating original content rather than get lost in the digital TV clutter.

Unlike the warm embrace given to Netflix’s first high-profile series, House of Cards, Powers’ reception has been decidedly mixed and far from rapturous.

One recurring criticism is that Powers looks “cheap,” which must be particularly tough for PlayStation to hear, given that the company has insisted that the show’s budget is on par with Netflix series like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.

Sony wants Powers to sell PlayStation Plus memberships, but that’s not going to happen if consumers have no interest in watching given the show’s lukewarm reception. Netflix, meanwhile, can now safely cross another potential streaming competitor off the list.

PlayStation wants to be the new Netflix, but that will never happen

Making ‘Ghostbusters’ into a Franchise Reveals a Sony Still Haunted by Bad Ideas

ghostbustersSony ain’t afraid of no ghost — but the studio is terrified of not having a franchise to call its own. That’s why the studio announced plans yesterday to turn Ghostbusters into a full-fledged franchise, with new films, TV shows, merchandizing and much more. But as I wrote at Quartz,

In doing so, Sony is proving that it hasn’t learned any lessons from its last attempt to create its own version of the Marvel/DC/Star Wars Cinematic Universe, as it once again tries to resurrect a shaky franchise. The studio is repeating the same mistakes it made with Spider-Man, when they announced with much fanfare in Dec. 2013 the creation of a “franchise brain trust,” which would enable Sony to alternate Spider-Man sequels with various film spinoffs (including Venom, villain-centric Sinister Six and incredulously, even a possible Spidey-free movie about Peter Parker’s Aunt May). But when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 imploded last summer, it torpedoed all such plans, forcing Sony to re-partner with Marvel, scrap those “franchise brain trust” films, and restart its Spider-Man film franchise again in 2017, for the third time in 15 years.

And Monday’s Ghostbusters news sounds alarmingly similar to those once-grand, now-scuttled Spider-Man plans. The studio is in transition and needs a viable franchise, stat, but this development will likely do the Ghostbusters films more harm than good:

What made the upcoming female version so exciting, which is written and directed by Paul Feig (BridesmaidsThe Heat), was its fresh take on the story—who doesn’t want to see these four funny women kicking paranomal butt? But the announcement of another guy-centric Ghostbusters film has already sapped much of that thrill. As noted in Vanity Fair, “The girls aren’t being kicked out of the firehouse. But it sure feels a little crowded for them, even before they’ve moved in.”

I’m still excited for Feig’s Ghostbusters film next summer, but Sony’s plans beyond that make about as much sense as that Aunt May Spider-Man spinoff.

Making ‘Ghostbusters’ into a franchise reveals a Sony still haunted by bad ideas

Amy Pascal is Proof that Sony’s Scandal Wouldn’t be Over Until Someone Took a Fall

Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal poses during the premiere of "The Interview" in Los Angeles

After six weeks of relative quiet, the other shoe finally fell in Sony’s hacking scandal today, as the company announced that its embattled co-chairman, Amy Pascal, would be stepping down. She released the standard statement for a departing chief, with lines like “I am so proud of what we have all done together and I look forward to a whole lot more.” But as I wrote at Quartz,

That was pretty standard corporate speak for a departing chief, but no amount of spin can disguise the reality of what happened: Pascal is stepping down not because of some longing to become a producer, but because of the fallout from the hacking scandal, most notably the career-scorching leaked emails that were at the center of the maelstrom that enveloped the company for much of December. The only surprise about Pascal’s departure was that it didn’t happen sooner.

It’s also the latest reminder that whenever there is a huge scandal at a company, especially a global media corporation like Sony, someone always has to take the fall. The only question is who is made the scapegoat.

And once Pascal’s hacked emails were made public in December, it was obvious who that person was going to be. The hackers might have lost the battle when The Interview was released against their wishes, but today they won the war.

Amy Pascal is proof that Sony’s scandal wouldn’t be over until someone took a fall

Why Crackle, Sony’s Big Digital Video Play, was Sidelined for ‘The Interview’

interview crackle

For my first story of 2015, I looked at one of the biggest head-scratchers in The Interview’s strange saga: why Sony dropped the ball on the chance to boost the profile of its own streaming site, Crackle. As I wrote at Quartz,

Yet despite a New York Post report on December 21st that Sony was going to stream The Interview on Crackle, a studio source tells Quartz that Crackle was not considered as part of The Interview’s digital strategy, given that the free site has no mechanism in place for charging consumers the $5.99 rental and $14.99 purchase fee for the film that the other VOD outlets have been offering.

Still, this is a major missed opportunity for Crackle, which has been trying to lure new viewers with several new original films and series (though only one, Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, seems to have any real traction).

This would seem to be the last Interview story I’ll do for awhile, but never say never…

Why Crackle, Sony’s big digital video play, was sidelined for ‘The Interview’

‘Squawk Alley': Shaking Up Hollywood’s VOD Model

Squawk Alley 12-29

TV & Not TV, back on TV! I returned to CNBC’s Squawk Alley this morning to discuss my latest Quartz story on The Interview’s big first four days online. Here’s a clip from the segment:

It was a pleasure as always chatting with Carl Quintanilla and the team.

Shaking up Hollywood’s VOD model

‘The Interview’ was a huge online success — but more for Google than for Sony

sony interview google

Sony has released the VOD numbers for The Interview — and they are impressive. The movie earned more than $15 million during its first four days on the internet, and was rented or purchased more than 2 million times. Yet despite this seemingly terrific news, the long-term Interview forecast is still bleak for Sony, as I explained at Quartz:

By making those day-and-date internet video deals, Sony has also lost out on the additional VOD revenue that would have come 90 days or so after the film’s theatrical release—which means that its chances of making back The Interview’s estimated $75 million budget are exceedingly slim. The film’s online success might be a qualified moral victory for Sony, but it definitely won’t be a financial one—and that’s even before calculating the significant financial fallout from the hacking scandal, which could be as much as $100 million.

I also detail the other big Interview winners and losers from the past week, including Google, Apple and Netflix.

‘The Interview’ was a huge online success — but more for Google than for Sony

‘The Interview’ Will Finally Give Internet Video the Big Moment It’s Been Waiting For

the interview VOD

I squeezed in one last story before Christmas, thanks to Sony, which announced that The Interview would begin streaming today to a variety of platforms, including Google Play and YouTube. I put together this Quartz story about how this unbelievable saga has suddenly given VOD the groundbreaking moment it’s waited years for. As I wrote:

For years, premium video on-demand (VOD) has been a white whale for studios, which have been unable to convince theater chain owners to grant any leeway in their traditional 90-day exclusive window after a film’s theatrical release. Those exhibitors have good reason to be worried: This year’s North American movie ticket sales fell 4%, to $10.5 billion, and one of the most reliable moviegoing demographics, kids and young adults ages 12 to 24, went to the movies 15% less often.

There is a massive audience for this film, and this premium VOD release is perfectly timed for that. After years of stagnation, we’re finally going to find out if premium VOD is worth fighting exhibitors for.

And with that, I hope you all have a happy holiday season!

‘The Interview’ will finally give internet video the big moment it’s been waiting for

Hey Netflix: Be a Hero and Buy ‘The Interview’ from Sony

netflix the interview

Well, that escalated quickly. In light of Sony’s announcement yesterday that it had officially canceled The Interview’s Christmas Day release, and “has no further release plans for the film,” I made a bold suggestion at Quartz: Netflix should save the day, and strike a blow against the hackers who have humiliated Hollywood. As I wrote,

Netflix, which doesn’t have a presence in Asia, is more protected from political fallout than the other multinational companies involved in this controversy. And the film’s marketing budget could be nonexistent. Instead, all of those celebs who decried Sony’s decision yesterday would suddenly become Netflix’s biggest cheerleaders, and the company would find itself with an army of enthusiastic—and free!—celebrity spokesmen, not to mention the invaluable free media coverage.

The company has long made a habit of rescuing discarded TV shows, including Arrested Development, The Killing, and Longmire, the canceled Western crime drama it picked up just last month from A&E. But now it could take things to the next level, and rescue a huge holiday movie.

Time and again, Netflix has proven itself to be fearless and hasn’t hesitated to make big deals that have upended the entertainment industry. Now it’s time for the company to step up to the plate again.

Hey Netflix: Be a hero and buy ‘The Interview’ from Sony