Sony Pushes into Unscripted Content with New Acquisition

As the content wars heat up and streamers seek to close in on that ever-tightening market share space, we’re seeing a flurry of mergers and acquisitions intended to expand content libraries as well as build new offerings and future opportunities. Sony Television has now entered the unscripted fray with a major stake in Industrial Media. Brandon Blake, entertainment attorney with Blake & Wang P.A, unpacks this development for us.

Industrial Media

The Sony stake in Industrial Media will be to the tune of $350M, giving it an immediate controlling stake. Formed in 2018 when Core Media Group and Eli Holzman’s The Intellectual Property Corp merged, Industrial Media produces over 100 unscripted programs, including the highly successful So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, and 90 Day Fiancé franchises. That’s an impressive track record for the genre.

Eli Holzman himself will now join Sony Pictures as their president for nonfiction entertainment, directly reporting to Ravi Ahuja, Sony Chairman of Global Television Studios and SPE Corporate Development. His longtime production partner, Aaron Saidman, will shift to Co-President of Nonfiction Entertainment and continue to report to Holzman. There’s some additional shuffles in the works, including the move of Holly Jacobs, their Executive VP of Alternative and Syndicated Programming, to instead produce under the Sony banner. Suzanne Prete will take up Executive VP of Game Show Production., leveraging her experience to both oversee existing syndicated content as well as the development of new programs.

A New Shift

This represents a new era for Sony, which has long invested in scripted content and some game shows but has very little presence in the unscripted and non-fiction markets. With the call for nonfiction content growing, it’s a nice way to scale up their current product offerings, too. 

Sony will be adding to the new content with increased game show content, as well. These new offerings will join Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! Whether or not we will see them joining the national Zeitgeist in the way those two have, of course, is a different question. 

The choice to continue their game show legacy is actually an interesting one. While they were long a staple of TV programming, we haven’t seen much of the same platform enter the streaming space. 

Sony also offloaded its small gaming presence, GSN Games Studio, last year, leaving their GSN cable channel in a state of flux. We’ve recently seen them appoint John Zaccario as president for this area, however. How they will further develop the property remains to be seen.

All in all, it’s an interesting diversion from their traditional content, and makes for an interesting expansion to their existing content library, too. As the race to attract viewers’ eyes (and wallets) hots up, this could see them well-positioned to attract new viewers. All of that will hinge, of course, on how compelling the new content will be, however, and that remains to be seen.

Until then, this will be an interesting space to watch further. We will, of course, keep you informed every step of the way.

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