Sony’s Grouper buy — research?

I could have written a post about Google CEO Eric Schmidt joining the Apple board of directors (GooglePod, here we come) or about Universal Music trying out an ad-supported music service (all crapped up with DRM of course), but instead of climbing the Techmeme mountain I wanted to point to an interesting post from PBS columnist Robert X. Cringely about the recent Sony purchase of online video-sharing site Grouper.

Cringely’s view of the reasoning behind the deal is a variation on my theory, which is that Sony is basically desperate. They know that the movie game is changing somehow, and that these changes could possibly make things bad for movie studios, but they don’t really know much apart from that. The New York Times says big stars don’t even help sell movies any more. Should they release movies for download? Should they try fake “viral” campaigns like Snakes on a Plane? Or should they hire a guy to drop Mentos into a Coke?

Cringely’s take is that the Grouper buy represents Sony’s attempt at a kind of market research — a window onto the Internet, to see what gets popular and how, so that they can try to figure out how the heck to rejig their giant Hollywood machine. As the columnist points out, it is becoming increasingly possible for performers such as Frank Caliendo to emerge, become popular and potentially make a decent living without ever having touched the traditional media industry in any normal way. If I were Sony I would be doing a little research too.

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