In an decidedly frank panel discussion at the NATPE conference, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Tony Vinciquerra said that if the business he leads does not see growth in the near future, then it may be put on the market to be sold.
Most of his other comments were echoed by others -- the need for global scale, more divided audience reaction, and difficult distribution points -- are hurting many companies. He added that with the pending Disney acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets, that the number of major studios are going to shrink in a couple of years, including his.
"If we don't grow, we will be somebody's purchase," he told moderator Soledad O'Brien. "I didn't take the job to do it for a year and sell the company."
It was the first time that outsiders had a chance to hear from Vinciquerra since he took the position in June of 2017. The Q&A session with O'Brien lasted nearly 45-minutes and dove deep into the planning and next steps in his vision, as well as how he plans to adjust to the market shifts.
Vinciquerra said that among his first challenges that he had to overcome was making sure that his executives understood the need to be more nimble on both its film and television productions by creating a sense of urgency.
"People are aware the business is changing rapidly," he said. "If we are not on our toes, we are not going to be in business very long."
The direct words were curious to hear from a longstanding member of the Big Six has made over 4,000 films and won 12 Academy Award winners for Best Picture to its credit. SPE also owns Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Screen Gems, Destination Films, Affirm Films, and Funimation as well as a vast number of smaller operations and Sony Pictures-named subsidiaries.
It is tied most directly to the Spider-Man franchise as well as other properties like Men in Black, Underworld, Resident Evil, Ghostbusters, and The Smurfs.
Aside from the other massive movie makers, Vinciquerra said that the new pressure being put on big-budget enterprises has been the growth of OTT providers, many of which have a massive market share, like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google.
"We are a tiny little minnow fighting against all these gigantic companies," he said. "If they want to step on us, they could do it.
Vinciquerra was quick to point out that there are massively different opportunities as well as threats and opportunities for all to co-exist, if the tech giants allow it.
He pointed to the ways that Apple can connect direct with consumers with iPhones, computers, and other hardware; using Google as a search domination and advertising giant; Amazon being a retail giant, but none of them having the production or creative experience of those currently in the Hollywood landscape.
The statement, though, sounded more like the first line of an investment case.
"We are the engine for creativity for them," Vinciquerra said. "We bring new ways to bring customers into their eco-systems."
The most recent fiscal reports, April 2016 - March 2017, Sony Pictures Entertainment reported a sales figure of over $8 billion, factoring in the agreed to purchase price for Paramount Pictures as well as the Disney deal for Fox, it would be a safe estimate to think a buyer would need a near $30 billion to acquire SPE, leaving very few options to make Vinciquerra prophetic.