July 17, 2024

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Sony Pictures Televisions’ Ravi Ahuja has described how the U.S. market had become “too hot” and “inefficient” over recent years, but is now moving towards a healthier “cooling phase.”

During a keynote interview at Content London, SPT’s Chairman of Global Television Studios said the U.S. market was “getting back to normal” two weeks after the SAG-AFTRA deal was unveiled, though it has been a “mad scramble” to get productions back up and running.

“This is an interesting inflection point for our industry,” he added, pointing to Covid, the streaming reset and other market factors. “So many things have happened. It’s a new normal, let’s look at it that way.”

Ahuja said that volumes of programs being ordered had dropped off “a decent amount, even before the strikes.”

He added: “Against the strikes, the ad market contraction around the world and the streaming reset happening at the same time, it was almost as though we ran though this phase that was too hot. Now we’re in a stage where it’s a really cooling off.”

He said these conditions had made it more critical to make “shows of quality” but added Sony Pictures was positioned to deliver more shows in the ilk of The Night Agent, Platonic and The Blacklist.

“We’ll see contraction but we’ll be okay,” he said, before predicting “big tech companies” would look to consolidate or aggregate platforms in the next decade. “Linear TV will exist in eight or nine years but it will be smaller and will vary from market to market.

In response to a question about M&A and deals such as Sony Pictures Television India’s protracted merger with Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd., Ahuja said Sony was “actively” looking at M&A and would “continue to buy and sell things” but was taking a “very careful approach.”

Returning to his U.S. market analysis, he said: “The market had gotten a little too hot in terms of overall deals, investment in shows, acquisitions and there was a tremendous amount of inefficiency. In our world, production process became wacky. TV had started looking like film, [and] projects were brought out when they weren’t ready. As the market cools from that place is a lot of opportunities to bring those efficiencies in, so the consumer is still able to get a robust slate of shows but streaming services can ration their resources a little bit better.”

The former Fox and Disney exec repeated the often heard Sony mantra that the studio’s decision not to launch its own global streaming platform meant its staff were presented with a simpler objective than its rivals: making shows that sell.

“I came to Sony almost three years ago, I had seen first-hand the complexity of operating in that environment,” he added. “We are an independent studio with a very focused missions: make great shows and find the right home. That’s it. That’s not overly complicated by trying to balance platform demands with different things. There’s an enormous power in focus.”

The news comes after Sony this morning announced a first-look deal with the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Speaking in a hall adjacent to the Guardian’s office’s in King’s Cross, London, he joked the Sony strategy was “to do deals with companies in the same building we’re in.”

He talked up the partnership as an opportunity to find stories and own “new forms of IP,” before adding Sony Pictures was also working with the Sony gaming and music divisions on new projects.

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