Sony Group Delivers Profit Growth as SPE and Games Earnings Retreat

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Profit increases from music failed to outweigh declines from film and TV and from games at Japanese electronics and entertainment giant Sony Group. But, overall, the group was able to report a 9% increase in net income for the three months to June.

In the period between April and June 2021, representing the first quarter of its 2021-2022 financial year, Sony Group enjoyed sales of JPY2.25 trillion ($20.5 billion, using a US dollar to Japanese Yen conversion rate of $1 = JPY109.5), a gain of 15%. Net income grew from JPY194 billion to JPY212 billion ($1.93 billion). Earnings per share increased by 8.9% to JPY169.22.

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The music segment saw profits leap from JPY35.6 billion ($325 million) to JPY55.4 billion ($506 million) on revenues that increased from JPY177 billion to JPY 255 billion ($2.32 billion).

The pictures division (which spans film, network TV and TV production) saw profits of JPY25.4 billion, compared with JPY27.0 billion in the equivalent quarter last year. There were also reported by the company in US dollar terms, as operating income of $232 million from revenues of $1.87 billion, compared with previous operating income of $251 million earned from revenues of $1.63 billion.

Games and network services recorded an increase in quarterly sales, but a drop in profits. Revenues were JPY616 billion ($5.62 billion), compared with JPY606 billion. Operating profits were JPY83.3 billion ($759 million), compared with JPY124 billion.

In notes accompanying the financial statement, Sony said that the music division enjoyed stronger sales for recorded music and music publishing, coming from gains in paid subscription streaming services, ad-supported music streaming and a rebound in physical media. The segment also includes Sony’s Japanese anime business, which was boosted by physical media revenue from hit movie “Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train.”

The pictures division result was mixed. It enjoyed higher sales for media networks due to higher advertising and subscription revenues, higher sales for motion pictures and an increase in television licensing revenue. But these were offset by a decrease in sales to home entertainment due to limited prior year theatrical releases and lower revenues from television productions.

In the quarter, SPE had $169 million of worldwide gross box office revenue, earned from three movies: “The Unholy,” “Here Today” and “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway.”

For the full year, the group revised upward its forecast for the pictures division profits, and shaded down its forecast of the division’s revenues.

The all-important games division enjoyed increases in sales of hardware and peripheral devices and was handed a useful exchange rate gain. But it suffered from a decrease in sales of non-first-party titles including add-on content. It also suffered a weakening of its strategic price points for hardware and sold the PlayStation5 console at below its manufacturing cost. Despite these blows, Sony did not change its sales or revenue guidance for the games division’s full year results.

Sony’s shares tumbled by 3.5% on Wednesday trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, ahead of the results announcement. At the trading halt they were valued at JPY11,050 apiece. That reduced the year-to-date gain to less than 6%. Over 12 months, the Tokyo-traded shares are up by 27%.

The past year of media consolidation and the rise of direct-to-consumer streaming operations by the group’s Hollywood rivals raised multiple questions over Sony’s strategy in the streaming sector and, again, about the direction of the overall group.

The group hit back with a pair of clever rights deals that make Sony Pictures Entertainment a key content supplier to both Netflix and Disney Plus, and with a defiant stand reiterated at its investor day presentations in May.

Sony Pictures Entertainment’s film and television operations are not for sale or about to be hived off, Sony Group CEO Yoshida Kenichiro said at the May presentations. He regards the film and TV studio it as a core piece of the group mission to “fill the world with Kando (the Japanese word for ‘emotion’) through the power of creativity and technology.”

Yoshida said that while Sony is not launching a mass streaming business, it is not turning its back on D2C. “Sony plans to strengthen its initiatives in the service, mobile and social spaces to further expand these communities, and seeks to expand the number of people around the world directly connected to the Sony Group due to their desire to consume entertainment from the current number of approximately 160 million to 1 billion people,” he said according to notes.

In his May strategy notes, Yoshida said that in the three years from until March 2024 Sony plans to allocate JPY2 trillion ($18.4 billion) for “strategic investment, and investment towards growth in the IP and DTC business; technology; and share repurchases.”

He also plans on “strengthening the PlayStation Now cloud streaming game service and … investing in or partnering with external studios.” In late 2020, Sony agreed to acquire a specialist anime streaming company Crunchyroll, though that deal remains under scrutiny by U.S. regulators.

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