April 29, 2021
In advance of home entertainment industry veteran David Bishop’s keynote address May 4 at the OTT.X Leadership Development Foundation 2021 Summit, Media Play News reached out to Bishop for a Q&A, the first in a series of conversations we intend on having with home industry leaders past, present — and future.
Bishop is the former president of two major-studio home entertainment divisions, MGM Home Video and then Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. While running Sony from 2006 to 2014, Bishop was one of the leaders in the launch and marketing of both Blu-ray Disc and digital distribution platforms, contributing to more than $20 billion in gross revenue for the studio. For 10 years before that, as president and chief operating officer of MGM Home Entertainment, Bishop played a key role in the launch of DVD, which remains the single most successful consumer electronics product debut in history. He was known as the “King of Catalog” for successfully mining the studio’s rich vault for new DVD special editions.
After leaving Sony Pictures, Bishop began consulting as an advisor to IMAX and began working with numerous startups to launch new technologies. In the financial community, he often is hired to help financial institutions understand the trends in the media business. He is also a consultant to Cognizant, the New Jersey-based multinational technology company that provides business consulting, information technology and outsourcing services. And after earning a graduate certificate in executive organizational coaching from Columbia University, Bishop is working with the Dean of the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California (USC) to create a leadership development program called Third Space Thinking.
MPN: David, tell us more about what you’ve been up to in the seven years since you left Sony Pictures. What made you choose this career path?
Bishop: In addition to my love for the industry, I always had a passion for building high-performance teams. I learned early on that as a leader if you provide a clear strategic direction and allow the team members to contribute to achieving your corporate goals, a couple of things happen. Employee engagement goes up and financial results follow.
So, when I decided to leave Sony, I eventually made my way on a path to support emerging leaders and their teams. That has led to many satisfying experiences. I’ve helped CEO/founders in Silicon Valley and around the world transform their businesses and cultures. I’ve facilitated workshops and provided coaching to companies such as Disney, Google, Alibaba, United Airlines and NBC/Universal, to name a few. I became a fellow and strategic advisor for Harvard University’s Institute of Coaching. We just completed a white paper on the impact the pandemic has had on leadership and organizational dynamics. Along with two former Sony executives, Aodan Coburn and Miguel Geli, we’ve built a firm called Global Coaching Delivered, which provides leadership and business support around the world.
How does what you’re doing now compare to the studio life? Do you ever miss our business?
Of course I miss my team and the community we created. This is a unique industry where even your competitors become friends. However, growth sometimes calls for pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, and it was time for me to pursue a more diversified path. I still stay involved in the industry through my work as a founding board member for Parrot Analytics, my work as co-chair for Pepperdine’s Entertainment, Media and Sports MBA program, and occasional consulting gigs. However, my overarching mission now is to make the working environment fun and productive. That’s what drives my leadership and org-development practice.
Looking at the industry you grew up in from the outside, what are your thoughts on its evolution?
I think the industry has largely followed the consumer’s needs. At Sony, we had a reverse mentoring program where we paired senior executives with millennials. The purpose was to help the leadership team keep pace with changing habits. I habitually asked, “What’s more important to you, ownership or access?” Increasingly, the answer was access.
The passion for content continues. The way people interact with movies and TV programming has evolved dramatically.
What do you think were some of the smartest moves our industry leaders made as the business began to shift toward digital?
Obviously, Netflix changed the landscape. I remember when they were just starting to stuff DVDs into mailing envelopes, Reed Hastings was asking me about streaming rights. The vision was clear and bold from the beginning. I’ve been impressed with Disney’s execution and rapid expansion of their service. It’s also noteworthy to see how studios who haven’t joined the “plus” trend have benefited. Sony is a prime example of that.
And on the flip side, what things could have been handled better? We’re thinking the mass sale of movies to Netflix, which helped the company grow and ultimately disrupt the traditional transactional model?
Yes, there were many heated debates about what titles and how much programming should be sold to Netflix in the early days. We were caught in what’s been called “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” We were trying to protect the current lucrative model and resist change. But the market is fluid and ever-changing. If you resist it, you get swept away. You never win by trying to frustrate the consumer, by forcing them to consume your product by your rules. You must be willing to dismantle one model as another emerges. It’s not easy, but we will continue to be in a world of volatility.
What do you see as the future of home entertainment? Will it be all streaming, or is that model simply not sustainable?
I think the transactional business is still viable. As it has moved to digital, there’s an ease in watching a movie by pointing your remote that is compelling. There will certainly be a battle over rights as streamers will look to buy out that window or use their own titles to expand services or reduce churn.
The consumer now needs a way to find the movie and TV shows they are looking for. The clutter and fragmentation confuses them.
Do you see a continuing place for physical disc? If so, for how long?
The physical disc can continue as long as it maintains its reputation of being the gold standard of audio and video quality. As compression technology continues to improve that will become a difficult lead to maintain. Of course, as sales decline the ability to actually find physical goods at retail will diminish. Places like Amazon will end up being the main outlet for purchase. So, I guess I’m saying I don’t see much long-term viability for the format.
And what about David Bishop’s future?
As for me, I’m laser focused on several key areas:
- Business: It’s my intent to continue to support leaders around the world. In Silicon Valley, having a coach is part of the game. Steve Jobs had one, Eric Schmidt at Google had one. Not for a six-month engagement, but as a permanent member of their support staff. That attitude needs to be the prevailing approach. There is always a need to have someone who is not your employee or your boss where you can air out your thoughts and co-create a future where you can realize your full potential.
- Family and friends: The pandemic has taught us how important community is. I make sure I spend meaningful time with my immediate family and my “family of choice.”
- Charity: I’ve been involved with ending hunger since I co-founded an organization with Jeff Bridges in the early 1990s. I’m now a board member and former board chair of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us.
- Music: I’m taking online classes through Berklee where my goal is to move from mediocre guitar player to a slightly above average musician.
- Health and wellness: At the core of supplying the energy to get the stuff done that I’ve listed is my daily ritual of physical exercise and meditation. That is central to building my future.