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Sony Reorg Results in Layoffs

Sony Broadcast and Professional Co. recently laid off about 100 workers, the result of a reorganization of Sony's division companies as well as continued weak equipment sales.

Sony Broadcast president Pat Whittingham says the move puts the division's operations more closely in line with what is happening in Japan.

It leaves the division with about 600 employees. Particularly affected were the marketing, sales, back-office and service-support areas as Sony tied the professional and prosumer areas closer together.

Besides a reorganization, the move also reflects the pain felt by nearly all broadcast-equipment manufacturers: Business continues to be weak as stations postpone facility digitization plans.

"We're not seeing any recovery yet, and our business in 2003 is relatively flat to 2002," says Whittingham.

The reorganization has created a sales and marketing division to serve the broadcast and post-production markets. The direct-sales force will serve larger customers and the dealer channel. And the national account organization has expanded to serve sports leagues while also selling to the networks and large station groups.

The company also has moved from a regional approach with two zones and six regions to one with only four regions, again reducing redundancy. Whittingham says this was the result of trying to be less headquarter-centric and more sales-centric.

At the end of the day, however, Sony will be attempting to do more with less. It expects to rely more on third-party integrators and resellers, an approach increasingly used by other manufacturers as direct-sales efforts are scaled back.

Steve Jacobs, senior vice president of the broadcast and professional systems division, says Sony can feel comfortable about relying more on third parties. "The sophistication of resellers and integrators has come a long way in the last 10 years."

He is heavily involved with a new Sony effort: a digital roadshow with a 50-foot tractor trailer that will demonstrate Sony's equipment, including the new optical-disc acquisition system, across the country this fall .

"The [stations'] CIO or CFO doesn't go to Las Vegas for NAB," says Jacobs. "We need to talk to them not only about the technology but also about ROI and workflow savings in a way that is accessible."

Jacobs says the launch of the truck will coincide with the official launch of the format sometime this fall.