The leak of emails and intellectual property, including then-unreleased film The Interview, was labeled “a serious national security matter” by the White House. In January this year, President Obama issued an executive order increasing sanctions against North Korea, the purported origin of the hack on SPE’s network and computers.
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Corporation, a Japanese multinational conglomerate. In offering retaliation on behalf of SPE, the White House placed SPE on par with critical U.S. infrastructure, though no one will be physically injured or die should SPE be hacked again, and the market won’t collapse if SPE loses money on all its movies this year.
If SPE, a foreign-owned, information security-challenged entertainment firm, is now entitled to military protection against cyberattack, what is it the White House and the U.S. will receive or has received in exchange?
What’s the exchange in this quid pro quo?
In 2013, STARZ network ordered the 16-episode adaptation of bestselling historical fiction novel, Outlander by author Diana Gabaldon, from production companies Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining & Supply Co., and Left Bank Productions, in association with Sony Pictures Television.
While STARZ was the U.S. distributor, offering the series on its own cable network, SPE’s TV arm appears to have handled overseas distribution to broadcast, cable, and video streaming services.
Outlander’s cross-genre narrative is set mainly in 1740s Scotland; the story is sympathetic to a Scottish protagonist and his time-traveling English wife who are caught between the British and Jacobites in the ramp up to the 1746 Battle at Culloden. The Scottish people and countryside are treated favorably in the series’ production.
The program debuted on STARZ in the U.S. on August 9 last year — a little less than six weeks before Scotland’s independence referendum (“IndyRef”). Outlander began airing in Canada and Australia in August also, and in October in Ireland after the IndyRef vote.
Distribution deals in other countries including Germany, Hungary, Japan, and the Netherlands led to wider release overseas last year.
But Outlander never received a distribution deal in 2014 in the UK, in spite of its many Scottish and British fans’ clamor and the source book’s status as a renewed bestseller in advance of the show’s U.S. debut. To date the series has only released on Amazon Prime Instant Video in the UK, for paid video-on-demand streaming — not on broadcast or cable.
At least one email leaked by hackers revealed that SPE personnel had a meeting or meetings with Cameron’s government. In an internal email from Keith E. Weaver, executive vice president, SPE executives were told,
“Your meeting with Prime Minister Cameron on Monday will likely focus on our overall investment in the U.K. – with special emphasis on the jobs created by Tommy Cooper [the ITV show], the importance of Outlander (i.e., particularly vis-a-vis the political issues in the U.K. as Scotland contemplates detachment this Fall), and the growth of our channels business…”
The implication is that SPE would suppress any effort to distribute Outlander to the benefit of Cameron’s anti-independence position, in exchange for “growth of our channels business…”
What exactly does this mean?
And is the pursuit of growth confined to SPE, or did “channels business” mean something else? Were Sony executives also looking for opportunities for Sony Corporation, which includes Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Mobile Communications (once known as Sony Ericsson), and Sony Financial?
Did SPE executives and the Prime Minister agree not to seek broadcast or cable distribution Outlander in the UK before this month’s election? Read more