Heading for the top
Todd Miller, executive VP and MD of Sony Pictures Television International, sits at the helm of one of Asia’s most active, and arguably aggressive content, distribution and new media companies. He tells Marketing how the group is using its considerable weight and cash to secure its future as the ‘Hollywood of Asia’ and how advertisers are playing a central role in the process.
Not many media companies in Asia hold bragging rights quite like Sony Picture Television International (SPTI). The media and entertainment giant holds a unique position in the region’s media sector and is today playing an influential role in the way entertainment is produced, how media is delivered to consumers and the way advertisers are playing a much bigger role in the production process.
The owner of a growing number of channel brands throughout Asia, including the animation channel Animax, action channel AXN and AXN Beyond, as well as the recently launched English-language Sony Entertainment Television, SPTI has also struck a number of major deals to produce films, TV series and game shows formats in key markets across Asia including China and India.
If all this is not enough, SPTI manages the distribution and syndication of Sony content for free-to-air and pay TV networks, as well as content for mobile and emerging digital platforms.
As executive vice president and managing director of SPTI Asia, Todd Miller sits across the company’s three key areas of business from distribution, its networks portfolio and the production business, which is arguably the most active of the US studios in terms of producing and distributing Asian content.
“I think we’re known as an aggressive company,” Miller says.
“Certainly Sony has been investing in Asia longer than most US studios, we were one of the early investors in the region and we continue to be in investment mode because we believe in the long term potential of the region.
“We take a long term view, which means building brands and building relationships are very important. Over time we tend to get it right. We have a good track record.”
And it’s an impressive track record indeed. In the past couple of years SPTI products in Asia have been consistent performers both in terms of ratings and growth.
But it’s the growing areas of advertiser-funded content and the distribution of content across multiple digital platforms, where integration of SPTI’s three business areas really hit their stride.
Miller says that demand from advertisers and agencies for more innovative ways to integrate products into TV content is strong, adding that Sony sits in an ideal place to take advantage of this demand.
Aside from programming like The Amazing Race, which integrates clients like Caltex, Nokia and Standard Chartered Bank into the programming, Sony has developed a number of brand-funded TV series for China, including the new TV drama The Game, which is in-part funded by the Ford Motor Company.
“We often mind ourselves having multiple conversations with the same clients and their agencies. We can tackle opportunities in China, we can tackle opportunities in India and other key markets. That is precisely what the advertising agencies are looking for; one company, one conversation and multiple executions. It’s what the advertisers are looking for and Sony is structured to be able to deliver that,” he adds.
“What AXN does is work very hard to integrate those advertisers into the show and the trick is to do that in a way which is organic, natural and that fits with the show, and yet delivers value to advertisers.”
In addition to The Amazing Race Asia, another branded entertainment project is Animax’s “LaMB”, an animated entertainment show offering advertisers branded entertainment opportunities like product placement. The project will spread across TV, online and mobile and represents Animax’s first original production in high definition, and aims to rewrite the entire entertainment experience and how content is delivered and marketed to consumers.
Prior to LaMB broadcast on Animax channel, an overlapping mobile campaign will kick in comprising of a mobile graphic novel series that continues on from where the on-line manga series ended. There will also be mobile game to further engage the viewer and video mobisodes to download.
Another key component of the local operation is the way SPTI is repurposing its extensive library of content and developing strategies to deliver this content across digital and mobile platforms.
Digital today, says Miller, is very much part of every conversation and is not treated as a mere standalone opportunity.
“Digital is very much embedded in everything we do, when we’re distributing our content we have a TV and digital distribution strategy and that digital component of that initiative is just as important and part of the thinking from the very beginning, just as it is in terms of traditional media.
“If you look at the eyeballs there is very much an imbalance, but if you look at the growth rates and the behaviour it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that as a content company we need to be making our content available in forms that consumers increasingly want.
If content is king in this new digital landscape then Sony is surely well positioned to maintain its strong growth.
“Our whole thinking about Asia is to invest in the region and to do so for the long haul. We are very well positioned and that goes back to the way we are structured. The fact that we offer our services as a one stop shop is one of our biggest competitive advantages.”
- Sony Pictures
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