Sony Pictures talks TV successes 'Breaking Bad,' 'Better Call Saul'

Touting successes "Breaking Bad" and the forthcoming "Better Call Saul," Sony Pictures told investors Thursday that it would undergo a "significant shift" away from movies and toward the "higher margin" television business.

During the half-day presentation, Sony TV chief Steve Mosko highlighted the $1.5 billion in revenue generated by the company’s television networks division in the last fiscal year, emphasizing that 75% of that figure was from overseas where the studio sees opportunity for more growth. Sony operates networks in 159 countries.

The TV unit, which makes shows for both broadcast and cable channels, is the producer of "The Blacklist," a drama on NBC starring James Spader that has become one of the more successful new shows of the fall TV season.

But Sony didn't have as much luck with one of its other big bets for the fall -- NBC's "The Michael J. Fox Show," which has had disappointing ratings.

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Sony TV programming head Zack Van Amburg also addressed investors and touted the success of "Breaking Bad," which recently ended its run on the AMC cable channel. The show, he said, made a lot more for the studio than had originally projected. He did not provide an actual dollar figure.

"Better Call Saul," a show inspired by one of the characters on "Breaking Bad," will make money for the studio as soon as it begins delivering episodes because of intense interest for it, he added. AMC won the rights for the show, but first had to beat back rival bids.

Several executives from Sony Corp.-owned Sony Entertainment Inc., which includes the film and television studio, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Sony Music Entertainment, spoke at the event at Sony Pictures' Culver City lot.

Sony Pictures is enduring a particularly challenging year. It had several box-office disappointments including "After Earth" and "White House Down." On Oct. 31, the studio posted an operating loss of $181 million for the fiscal second quarter.

Sony Entertainment Chief Executive Michael Lynton, also chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures, addressed cost-cutting at the Thursday meeting, saying the company had identified $250 million in "overheard and procurement savings" that are now being implemented.

On Monday, word emerged that Sony had hired consultancy Bain & Co. to examine the studio's expenditures. Bain is expected to identify an additional $100 million or more in budget cuts.

Shares of Sony were up 10 cents to $18.63 on Thursday.


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