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Sony to fold US music, movie wings into broadband unit

Paves way for the day when everything comes by cable

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Sony's scheme to dominate the home computing and home entertainment markets through broadband content delivery moved another stage forward today. The Japanese giant is to fold its three key entertainment subsidiaries - Pictures, Music and Online - into a new operation, Sony Broadband Entertainment. The move will see the subsidiaries retaining their individual operational status - for now, at least - but as Sony's broadband plans develop, the will inherently come under tighter control from Broadband, according to a Bloomberg report. Broadband will initially focus its efforts on the three subsidiaries' US wings. However, a number of senior management changes recently took place within the International and European regional offices of Music, which may be as sign the ground is being prepared to extend Broadband's coverage across the globe. Given the rate at which European Net use and telecoms infrastructure is catching up with those of the US, Europe is clearly the next major broadband content market. That surely means Broadband's incorporation of Sony's European content divisions will happen next, and sooner rather than later. In the US, Broadband will come into being at the end of July. The next stage will be to seek out partnerships with US companies to expand the distribution of digital content. That means deals with telcos, ISPs and TV networks. Sony's strategy calls for the delivery of broadband services into the home by the end of 2001, so it's clearly decided the time has come to start putting the all the pieces in place. In Japan, for instance, Sony is partnering with Toyota and Tokyu to create a high-speed data network for entertainment and e-commerce. A test service will begin in May. It's not yet clear if this arrangement is a satellite-based network, but Sony certainly has a licence from Japan's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to operate such a network. The licence was granted last October. Ultimately, Sony wants all these networks to connection its PlayStation 2 console and the machine's successors to Sony's own e-commerce and content delivery services. It has already set up online stores for Japanese PlayStation owners, again through partnerships with music and video retailers, and this is likely to be extended to Europe and the US when the PlayStation 2 is launched in these territories in the autumn. ® Related Stories Sony sells 980,000 PlayStation 2 consoles in two days Sony to sell online via 9000 in-store terminals Sony to launch e-commerce biz to serve PlayStation 2 users Sony to become 'Web department store' says president Sony preps satellite digital content delivery service Sony puts PlayStation 2 at heart of Net strategy

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