Case | HBS Case Collection | March 2008 (Revised November 2008)

Sony Digital Entertainment, Japan

by Anita Elberse


It is late 2007. So-called cell phone ("keitai") novels have turned into an extremely popular form of entertainment-on-the- go in Japan, in particular among young, female readers. In fact, consisting mostly of love stories written by amateurs in short sentences and containing little plot or character development, cell phone novels republished in book form and even remade as movies have come to dominate mainstream media content. At media giant Sony, Ken Munekata, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), and Atsushi Fukuda, President of Sony Digital Entertainment (SDE), are attempting to craft an adequate response. After establishing SDE as a 100% subsidiary of Sony Japan, they now develop a wide range of digital content offerings for mobile phone users, mostly original content "made in Japan"—including keitai novels. But can SDE's subscription model compete in a market dominated by free keitai novel offerings? And, more generally, do Sony's current keitai initiatives move the company in the right strategic direction? Allows for an in-depth examination of viable business models for established media companies competing in digital markets dominated by user-generated, advertising-supported content. Also enables an assessment of the economics of producing and distributing traditional films and books versus digital (cell phone) content.

Keywords: Books; Marketing Strategy; Open Source Distribution; Competition; Mobile Technology; Media and Broadcasting Industry; Publishing Industry; Telecommunications Industry; Japan;


Elberse, Anita. "Sony Digital Entertainment, Japan." Harvard Business School Case 508-071, March 2008. (Revised November 2008.)