Digital Conference

Sony's Rob Wiesenthal: The Future of TV Is the Tablet

Consumers Will 'Throw Content' to Enabled Sets

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Waiting for the day that a majority of consumers download content from the internet directly to their TVs? You may be waiting a while, said Rob Wiesenthal, chief financial officer, Sony Corp. of America.

All Things D's Peter Kafka interviews Rob Wiesenthal, CFO at Sony Corp. of America, during a fireside chat at the Ad Age Digital Conference Tuesday afternoon in New York.
All Things D's Peter Kafka interviews Rob Wiesenthal, CFO at Sony Corp. of America, during a fireside chat at the Ad Age Digital Conference Tuesday afternoon in New York. Credit: Patrick Butler

"The past 10 years everyone has been trying to figure out what is the optimum [user experience] for [internet-enabled] TV," Mr. Wiesenthal told the audience today at the Ad Age Digital Conference in New York City. "People are trying guns, pointer devices … and, actually, I think it is the tablet."

The what?

Mr. Wiesenthal's thesis is that more and more consumers will "throw content" from their tablets to enabled TVs through technologies similar to Apple's Airplay. Further, consumer-electronic companies will increasingly need a "revenue stream after the point of sale" if they want to compete in this multiscreen world, he said. For Sony, that stream comes from services such as its Playstation Network, which sold $1 billion worth of content in the last year, according to Mr. Wiesenthal.

The interviewer, All Things D's Peter Kafka, asked Mr. Wiesenthal if he was saying that the future of TV won't rely on traditional cable companies.

"It doesn't have to be either-or," Mr. Wiesenthal said. He described a hypothetical case in which a consumer may be able to "cobble together an interesting package of video" from sources other than cable and broadcast networks but may still rely on cable companies to provide the broadband connection.

Mr. Wiesenthal also outlined predictions for the future of digital-music services Spotify and Pandora. Spotify "at some point is going to have to bundle their service with a wireless carrier, or ISP ... and get it away from that monthly bill," he said. Pandora, on the other hand, "has a much more challenging road to conversion to pay" as it now relies almost exclusively on advertising revenue. Pandora's real strength, according to Mr. Wiesenthal, is its "tremendous amount of data."

Mr. Kafka also asked Mr. Wiesenthal about the role social platforms such as Facebook play in Sony's business. Facebook marketing is critical to promoting smaller-budget films, especially ones that appeal to female audiences, Mr. Wiesenthal said. For example, "Dear John," which starred Channing Tatum, amassed about 5.5 million fans by the time the movie premiered, he said. Twitter seems to move the needle more on the music side of the business, he added.

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