Sony is a leading global producer of consumer electronic equipment. Principal products include, among many others, home and portable audio, video cameras, digital cameras, Aiwa products, and home and portable gaming systems. Sony also is a producer of media content including recorded music, motion pictures, television programs and video games. The company also has a fledgling financial services division, which offers insurance as well as Internet banking.
Sony had revenues of approximately US$63.5 billion for the fiscal year ended March 2006, an increase of 4.4 percent over the previous year, and the company had operations in 150 countries worldwide. Sony’s five business divisions were electronics, games, pictures, financial services, and other, with almost 64 percent of revenues generated by the electronics division (Datamonitor 2006).
Sony was established in Tokyo, Japan, in May 1946 as an electronics company, making its reputation for innovation starting with the first all-transistor radio in 1954. Over the decades, Sony became an international company, establishing divisions around the world including in the United States, Britain, and Germany. The company continued to innovate, with the Trinitron television introduced in 1968 and the Betamax VCR in 1975, the Sony Walkman in 1979, the first CD player in 1982, and the first consumer camcorder in 1983.
Moving beyond its machine-based roots, the company began acquiring content providers in the late 1980s. The first acquisition was CBS Records, which was purchased in 1988. The following year, Sony acquired the long-running Hollywood film studio Columbia Pictures Entertainment, occasioning at the time an upsurge of anti-Japanese anxiety in some quarters in the US. In 1991, these two companies were renamed Sony Music Entertainment Inc. and Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., respectively. In 1991, Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased the company’s remaining interest in RCA/ Columbia Home Video, now known as Columbia TriStar Home Video Inc. Sony sold its 50 percent stake in the Game Show Network to Liberty Digital, Inc., and in 2002 sold off its stake in Telemundo Communications Group Inc., a 24-hour Spanish-language network, to NBC. In 2003, Sony Music entered a joint venture agreement with Bertelsmann’s BMG combining the two music companies with each owning a 50 percent stake in the joint venture.
In the 1990s, Sony made its entry into the video game industry through a collaboration with Nintendo. That partnership was unsuccessful, however, and Sony began developing its own gaming system, which would become the first Playstation, launched in 1995.
Sony Corporation develops, designs, manufactures, and sells electronic equipment and consumer entertainment in seven main areas: electronics, video and online games, music, movies, television, robots, and internet services and applications. These products are produced through five business segments: electronics, games, pictures (film and TV), financial services, and “all other.”
The electronics segment includes audio (home, portable, car, and navigation systems), video (cameras, decks, and DVD players), televisions, information and communication devices (including professional equipment), and semiconductors, among many others. Mobile communications operate through a joint venture with Ericsson – Sony Ericsson Mobile. The subsidiary produces mobile phones. Product names produced by Sony include Vaio, Trinitron, Bravia, and Handicam,
Sony Computer Entertainment was the home of Playstation 2, the dominant leader in the game console category. This product continued to sell well, due to deep price cutting, even after the introduction of the Playstation 3 in 2007. The PSP – the company’s handheld device – also has continued strong sales, though in 2007 Nintendo remained the leader in this segment. Station.com, a separate unit, produced online games including EverQuest and the Matrix Online.
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) produces and distributes motion pictures as well as television programming. The Spider Man franchise was a major success for this division. This area of the company has also had a number of television programming hits, particularly for cable outlets, including Rescue Me, Strong Medicine, and The Shield. In addition, they produced daytime programming such as soap operas, The Young and the Restless, and Days of Our Lives, as well as syndicated programming like Judge Hatchett and Judge Maria Lopez. This division housed home video acquisition and studio facilities operations, developed new entertainment technologies, and included AXN, an action and adventure television production company.
The “other” category for Sony included its financial services and the company’s music business. Sony Life Insurance Co., Sony Assurance, Sony Bank, and Sony Finance International made up the financial services segment of the company. In addition to insurance products, this division offered Internet banking and credit card and leasing services. Sony Music Entertainment Inc. and Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc., which included the Columbia, Epic, Legacy, Sony Classic, and Sony Nashville labels, sell recorded music and videos. In addition, the company has begun a monthly subscription service for music downloads.
- Datamonitor (2006). Sony Corporation company profile. June.