EXCLUSIVE: Carl Rose, the CEO of Sony Australia, believes that sport is the unlock to 3D TV in Australia, he also claims that the success of IPTV services will be down to how fat the NBN broadband pipe is.
In a frank interview the CEO, who has seen sales of his Bravia TVs slide in a bruising battle with Samsung Panasonic and LG, said that Sony is at an interesting point in the development of consumer technology. “For someone sitting in my job it’s a question of how much time do you spend, me or other MDs in the Sony Group, thinking about what the landscape is going to look like in a couple of years Vs today’s KPI’s of selling lots of TVs”.
On the question of content Rose said: “We know the internet is going to be the core content delivery platform. Kids are watching less and less TV so the consumer expectation for Internet devices is there.”
Rose believes that one of the unlock keys is getting the common interface right across multiple devices. “We (Sony) have a lot of work to do on software design which is probably a weak point for us Vs a company such as Apple. Hardware design, especially miniaturisation and cool looking hardware, is something that Sony can do but we have to master the software space as well”.
On the question of net-enabled media devices and content, Rose said: “It is easier to see one Cloud for content and services than it is to see one all powerful device”
He added: “We see the PS3 as a media hub and if we understand what we need to do with user interface design and product design around the Bravia TV and the PS3 with other devices supporting that eco system the PS3 has a good chance to be one of those key media hubs”.
Talking about product bundling which has seen Sony grab market share by bundling Sony Bravia TVs, Blu ray players and PS3 consoles, Rose said: “Bundling allows Sony to provide benefits and solutions as opposed to focusing on individual product features. Some customers just say ‘This is a great deal’ buy something and get something free. If we do our job properly, it encourages consumers or retailers who then encourage consumers to think about more than just one product working in isolation”.
Rose admits that Sony is collecting data from consumers who have registered their free consoles or Blu ray players. He puts this down to being a database for upgrades as opposed to being a marketing database for direct selling in the future.
“The benefit is that it gives us an installed base, and with the nature of the PS3 we can provide firmware upgrades”.
Rose has not said whether this database will be made available to Sony Central stores which are run by third party retailers in partnership with Sony.
Asked about what will drive 3D, Rose said: “A lot of uptake will come back to sport, we saw that with HD TV and we are now seeing that with 3D”.
Sony, who has had a poor start with their 3D TV offering claims that everyone in the industry was surprised as to how quickly broadcasters moved to deliver 3D content.
Sony, who openly lied to journalists about their launch date for 3D TVs, was in June, forced to withdraw their Sony PS3 console promotion due to a lack of 3D TV stock. This left the market wide open for Samsung and their new 3D range, which according to GFK sold well in retail stores.
According to Rose, the UK Olympics coupled with the 2011 Rugby World Cup will drive 3D sales with insiders tipping that Sony Australia will use these two events to heavily promote a new range of 3D and IPTV enabled TVs.
Sony, who provided Foxtel with the broadcast gear to air the Socceroos New Zealand game, said that the buzz created by broadcasters in Australia caught Sony by “surprise”.
Rose admits that the current retail environment is a “bit tough”. “Retailers are cycling against last year’s stimulus package” and that retailers may see a pause in sales as new TV supply hits stores.
Asked about Sony’s IPTV offering and their recent release of 15 new IPTV channels, Rose said “Sony first started talking about this in 1987 when we first acquired CBS Records. We are now working with content creators such as Billabong who we have a partnership with. They are looking for distribution of its content over an IPTV channel as found with the Bravia TV. This is easier for them than a traditional distribution agreement”.
“We are also in discussions with the Sydney Opera House and that’s an interesting opportunity when you think about its content” Rose said.
He claimed that the CEO of the Opera House, Richard Evans, wants to make the Opera House less elitist “and that Sony can certainly help” with this task.
In an interesting twist Rose said that Sony, who last year sacked 32 people, is now hiring people with publishing and music experience. “One of the big challenges for me is realising you need to truly understand the content business”. Rose who believes that content will be king and the reason why some products in the future will be purchased added: “In electronics we know how to move a lot of products through retailers and we are a strong marketing company, what we now have to master is the content business”.
Asked about the National Broadband Network, which is currently centre stage in the fight between the current Federal Government and the Opposition, Rose said: “It will deliver on the Internet generations expectations of how their content experiences are, what they can do with it, how they can personalise it, how they can interact socially with it”.
Rose, who believes that Australia can benefit from the NBN when it comes to local content said: “There is a massive amount of creativity in this part of the world and when the NBN is there, when there’s capacity, then I’m sure this generation who have grown up with the Internet will fill the pipe with lots of exciting things”.
The interview with Carl Rose was done for Price WaterHouse Coopers Outlook publication.