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Sony's has extended its plan to dominate the digital entertainment market with the launch of a subsidiary whose mission is to bring venture capital to new media start-ups.

The new operation, 550 Digital Media Ventures, will be a division of Sony Broadband Entertainment, the umbrella organisation Sony formed earlier this year to encompass all its media operations - computer games, movies and music - in preparation for the emergence of broadband Net-based digital delivery networks.

550 DMV's stated goal is to "create, incubate, operate, invest in and acquire digital media companies" operating in areas such as "including broadband services, wireless, personal broadcasting, email/direct marketing, digital asset management, e-commerce facilitation, and professional Internet services".

It has already signed up 35 companies, in which it will be investing and guiding to (hopefully) success. At that point, it will be able to take full advantage of whatever technology or service its offspring have introduced to promote or extend its own business. At the very least, successful investments will pay off financially, as and when the investee IPOs.

It's a smart move, providing Sony will access to ideas and operations it might never have or create itself. And unlike regular VCs, it's focusing on start-ups that can have a direct impact on its own plans to be the Microsoft of the digital home entertainment world.

As Robert Wiesenthal, 550 DMV's vice chairman, put it: "By exploring and developing new ventures in the digital media space outside the traditional areas of Sony's operating companies, 550 DMV will forge relationships that can benefit all the companies in the Sony family." ®

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