Sony negotiating for Fuji Television tieup, equity stake

Sony Corp. said Monday that it has been negotiating with Fuji Television Network Inc. on a business tieup and may take an equity stake in the broadcaster.

A senior official at Fuji TV, a core member of the Fuji-Sankei business group, said his company would not object to a tieup if Sony is willing.

Industry watchers said the two firms are joining hands in light of increasing demand for visual information from the Internet and TV networks.

Capital affiliation would enable the two companies to jointly develop and offer interactive TV services based on ground-wave digital broadcasting expected to start in 2003, they said.

Sony is considering acquiring part of Nippon Cultural Broadcasting Inc.’s 13.9 percent stake in Fuji TV, sources at the companies said. The radio station operator is Fuji TV’s second-largest shareholder.

Nippon Broadcasting System Inc., an AM radio broadcasting company also belonging to the Fuji-Sankei group, is Fuji TV’s largest shareholder, with a 34.1 percent stake.

Fuji TV listed its stock on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s first section in 1997.

Sony and Fuji TV have maintained close business ties. Both jointly invested in Japan Sky Broadcasting Co., the digital satellite broadcasting service operator that later became SKYPerfecTV. And Sony has invested in Fuji TV’s digital broadcasting subsidiary, BS Fuji, which is expected to start operations in December.

Believing that further integration of the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors is inevitable, Sony wants to strengthen ties with broadcasters, the watchers said.