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Sony Fires President of Home Video Unit

Benjamin Feingold, who led the film studio into DVDs, is succeeded by David Bishop.

September 15, 2006|Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller | Times Staff Writers

Benjamin S. Feingold, who led Sony Pictures' foray into the lucrative DVD market, has been ousted as head of the studio's home entertainment group after 12 years in that job.

Sony announced Feingold's departure in a statement released Thursday, saying that the executive would be pursuing other opportunities.

The company promoted David Bishop, Sony's domestic video chief, as the new president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which employs 900.

Feingold, who recently signed a new contract, actually was fired last week, according to people who have talked to him. They added that he had made no secret of his unhappiness in the job as DVD sales growth flattened, complaining that the job had become less challenging.

Feingold was unavailable for comment, but in a statement he thanked Sony Pictures for "helping to make the past 18 years so memorable."

Feingold's ousting was prompted by a disagreement with Sony Pictures Entertainment Chief Executive Michael Lynton over a planned reorganization of the home entertainment division. Sony aims to separate some of the functions of the unit -- including digital distribution-- into stand-alone business units.

Bishop, a former Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive, was named in April as North America president of Sony home entertainment. Lynton touted Bishop's experience and leadership and praised Feingold for "building our home entertainment division into what it is today. He was a leader in creating the whole DVD market, which of course changed the landscape of our whole industry."

Feingold's departure comes as home video units at the major Hollywood studios have been under mounting pressure to find new ways to offset a decline in the rate of growth for the DVDs, which have been a key driver of studio earnings.

Sony and other studios are moving aggressively to capitalize on the promise of delivering movies over the Internet. That prospect hastened this month when Amazon.com Inc. started selling downloadable movies and TV shows, and Apple Computer Inc. announced its own online movie service.

Sony also is looking to expand its worldwide launch of Blu-ray, the next-generation DVD technology that provides high definition pictures and more storage. Feingold played a critical roll in Sony's Blu-ray push.

"This is a critical period for every studio's home entertainment division, but especially Sony's, given that so much is at stake with the new high definition format," said Tom Adams of Adams Media Research.

richard.verrier@latimes.com

claudia.eller@latimes.com

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