From The Good Doctor and Breaking Bad through to Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, Sony Pictures Television creates and distributes a vast array of unscripted and scripted TV series and feature films.
As well as programming from group companies in the US including Sony Pictures Television Studios, Embassy Row and Silvergate, SPT has built up a strong international pipeline of content, operating 21 wholly-owned or joint-venture production companies in 12 countries.
In the UK, these include The Crown producer Left Bank Pictures, as well as Electric Ray and Stellify.
SPT has added to its UK roster this year with the acquisition of Sex Education producer Eleven, and the purchase of a minority stake in sports indie Whisper Films.
In France, meanwhile, SPT took a 20% stake in leading unscripted producer Satisfaction, and is now its exclusive worldwide distribution partner – including of new format District Z (see below). Elsewhere, SPT companies include: Lean-M in Russia; Huaso and SPT China in Asia; and Playmaker in Australia.
SPT’s “enormous trove” of US and international content has served the company well during the coronavirus pandemic, says Sony Pictures Entertainment’s president of distribution and networks Keith Le Goy.
“From kids watching more TV to people who are now binge-watching content or going back to consuming their favourite shows on streaming platforms, consumers are getting lot of comfort by being entertained.”
On the drama front, key titles this year include teen franchise Alex Rider from Sony-backed Eleventh Hour Films, climate crisis series The Commons from Playmaker, as well as US shows Coyote, S.W.A.T. and For Life.
On the unscripted side, SPT reps hit formats such as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and the Dragons’ Den/Shark Tank franchise, plus the shows it distributes through the Satisfaction Group, which include District Z, The Villa franchise (The Villa of Broken Hearts and Battle Of The Couples) and celebrity fish-out-of-water comedy format The Tourists.
As well as content from its own companies, SPT also picks up third party content for distribution. Notably, Dragons’ Den was originally a local Japanese production from Nippon TV which SPT picked up and then developed as a global franchise.
Le Goy says SPT is seeing “tremendous growth” in the home consumption of its movies and TV shows. “New releases such as Bloodshot, Jumanji and Bad Boys For Life have done incredibly well on EST (Electronic Sell Through) and VoD as have huge television series such as Outlander,” says Le Goy. “And our library has also been very popular. We’ve noticed a lot of rediscovery of familiar classics and, with people now having more time for watching, they are catching up on great shows they may have missed before.”
Le Goy also flags the surge in AVoD platforms and their hunger for a wider array of content. “This will continue to be a big growth path for our business in the coming years.”
It’s not all been plain sailing for SPT, though. Not being able to meet face-to-face with clients has been “challenging in some regard,” says Le Goy.
However, Sony, like many other distributors, quickly pivoted online during the pandemic – and was one of the first big players to do so. It created a virtual portal for the LA Sreenings in May, and is now running a virtual October Formats Fest to showcase its content to buyers.
Looking ahead, Le Goy says the priority is getting through this unprecedented time with “our sanity and humour intact.”
“Then we can learn as much as we can to build back stronger than ever before.”