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Looking through the murky depths of the Faultline


Published: 3 February, 2012


This week there are several stories which have reminded us of predictions that we have made, sometimes against the run of rival coverage, which have turned out to be prophetic.

These we carry in our paid service Faultline, and it has long been used to making brave predictions and for the most part getting them soundly right, and Rethink TV readers might do well to take a trial and perhaps go on and purchase a subscription.

Sony is a case in point with new leadership announced this week. We first suggested that Sony solve its problems when in 2003, tongue in cheek we suggested that given that at the time it was worth 4 times the value of Apple, it should make a run at buying Apple and solve most of its problems of fragmentation in one move. Putting Steve Jobs in charge of the whole shooting match would have been awesome - but then why would he have wanted that?

We have advised each successive Sony management as it came into power of what it is that Sony has to do to become great again. Much of it revolves around using its huge content mountain to give privileged access to customers who use Sony devices. Today it is well past the point where Sony can use the same formula that has made Apple rich, but it can simply put content - movies, TV series, music, games - into a single online store front with a global prominent brand, which each of its products TVs, PCs, tablets, Phones, games consoles - could use. It could also sell of sacred cows like its TV division.

This week we asked the Question - How to you take an $83 billion revenue business and make it worthless? Answer - rename it Sony.

The current management team has been unable to do anything except halve the value of Sony down to $18 billion, during the years that it has been in office. Howard Stringer has focused throughout his term as CEO on the integration of all the major Sony businesses, and seeing through plans to cut its component costs.

No doubt we will be offering Kazuo Hirai the same advice as the value of Sony remains recalcitrantly low.

The other story we prognosticated on was the AT&T reshuffle announced this week. Faultline told investors that the T-Mobile deal would never go through and that this would mean an end to some distinguished careers. Most US analysts asked the question instead of Verizon management, suggesting they had missed a shrewd move which AT&T had seen. But they did this without thinking the advice through.

Verizon instead has completed a number of master strokes tying up deals with cable to buy spectrum and cross sell, all while AT&T execs spent all their time justifying an impossible deal and taking their eye off the ball.

What we said at the time, in a piece entitled AT&T and the Giant Peach read, "We live in a world largely driven by hysteria. In financial circles hysteria is fuelled by things like Japan's reactors going nuclear or oil leaks in the sea bed off the coast of North America. That hysteria swings prices and allows us all to overlook the substantive issues. Instead we focus on panic, inspired to make us do the wrong thing. Nothing is more like this than AT&T and the Giant Peach - in this case the Peach is Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile, the fourth largest US cellular operator. Very juicy. Whichever way you look at it, this is a fairy story, hence the title. Why is it a fairy story? Because it should remain largely fiction."

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