Posted on the third anniversary of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange’s asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the latest Sony documents include confidential memos from executives on coming films, notes on IT strategies, financial forecasts and movie marketing and merchandising plans.
Among the documents is a memo that discusses a potential transaction in which Apple was seeking non-exclusive distribution rights to Sony films via ultra-high-definition digital streaming. The document reveal that Apple has been exploring the potential for 4K video streaming since at least September 2013. The memo was signed by Jim Underwood, an executive vice president with the Sony property Culver Digital Distribution, and Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for Internet Software and Services.
Embarrassing Revelations among Leaks
November’s hack of Sony Pictures led to the public release of thousands of internal documents and files, including employee Social Security numbers, embarrassing executive emails and yet-to-be-released films, including the Seth Rogen comedy “The Interview.” Widely blamed on North Korea, the cyberattack was believed to have been motivated by anger over the movie’s depiction of an assassination attempt on that nation’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
Launched by a group calling itself the “Guardians of Peace,” the Sony hack “consisted of the deployment of destructive malware and the theft of proprietary information as well as employees’ personally identifiable information and confidential communications,” according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations. “The attacks also rendered thousands of SPE’s (Sony Pictures Entertainment) computers inoperable, forced SPE to take its entire computer network offline, and significantly disrupted the company’s business operations.”
While the massive breach caused considerable embarrassment for the Japan-based entertainment corporation — executive Amy Pascal was fired after leaked e-mails revealed her racially-tinged messages with producer Scott Rudin about President Barack Obama’s supposed movie preferences — it appears not to have caused as much financial damage as the company first thought. Sony’s end-of-the-year financial estimate put the cost of the hack at around $15 million.
Talk of 4K Tests Just Talk for Now
The latest Sony documents posted by WikiLeaks include a September 26, 2013, memo that discussed the possibility of Apple signing a non-exclusive distribution agreement for “feature films and television episodes on a video-on-demand and digital delivery home entertainment basis in 4K or ‘ultra-high definition’ resolution or format.” The memo noted that Sony was ready to provide Apple with “certain materials” to begin testing such a service.
Apple had been expected to make an announcement about the launch of its much-anticipated Apple TV digital streaming service during its Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month. However, those plans appear to be on hold as Apple continues working to secure broadcast rights for the service.
The delay seems to hinge on Apple’s reported desire to include local television programs as well as network movies and shows in the service. Local broadcast rights would require the company to negotiate deals with numerous individual local stations across the U.S. Local broadcasters would likely request that Apple restrict program availability to only digital viewers within the boundaries of specific local designated market areas, or DMAs.