paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies


12. Sony

Diversified, Japan (Public)

Last year’s rank: #11

Digital Content Revenue

$3,383,000,000 (4% of total)

Digital Snapshot

It never rains but it pours – and Sony has been caught in a perfect storm. Having lost the electronics innovation edge to Apple and Samsung, the behemoth has also struggled with the global downturn, currency fluctuations and natural disaster at home in Japan. It remains a diverse global entertainment powerhouse, manufacturing devices as well as the movies, TV shows and music to go through them. Its long-held ambitions of making this vertical integration coherent is now coming to pass through Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited.

Key Move

Sony had to get its house in order in 2011, not least in digital content. The outfit bundled its PlayStation Network, Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services together as Qriocity – a name nobody understood. Then PSN suffered weeks of outage after a hack attack and Sony renamed Qriocity as Sony Entertainment Network. One of its big ideas for uniting content and hardware, its tablet line-up, made no impact.

Our Methodology

New CEO Kazuo Hirai forecast online content services sales of 300 billion yen ($3.8 billion) for fiscal 2012. Within that, PlayStation Network alone was already pulling in 36 billion yen ($450 million) in 2009. That PSN revenue doubled in 2010, according to Reuters (estimated total 72 billion yen, $907 million) and reportedly rose a further 14 percent thanks to measures Sony took after the hack attack (estimated total 82 billion yen, $1 billion. But even adding nascent online music and video services (now called Sony Entertainment Network) to the games services leaves a big gap to Hirai’s target. The Sony Music Entertainment label does not break out earnings from digital music sales and licensing, but applying the global industry-standard ratio of 32 percent to the label’s $5.4bn total 2012 revenue yields $1.728 billion. The Sony Pictures Entertainment studio does not break out earnings from online movie sales and rentals, but we estimate this at eight percent of the studio’s 656 billion yen ($8.2 million) 2012 fiscal revenue – $655 million.

Source: Q4 2012

— RA



Tripadvisor is all digital media and is around $750 M in yearly revenue and should likely be included on this list.

Arsenal Highlights

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If you want to rank things on revenue, fine. But then don’t call it the ‘Most Succesful List’: Microsoft might ‘make’ $3.9b on digital content, but it also loses around $3b every year too.


Thomson Reuters?! After Eikon failure & loss of half staff..? Are you mad.


What makes me wonder ist, taht there under th etzop 50 is not a single company from Germany. Germany is the biggest market in EUropa, but no German Hundefutter among the big player. I don’t buy that.

Abdallah Al-Hakim

I think this is a terrific list despite any reservations some people have about the methodology. It really demonstrates the huge growth potential of digital media companies in some of the emerging markets. Also, as a scientist – I note Elsevier being top 5 in revenue (Elsevier is publisher behind many of the top scientific journals).

Rick Noel

Google+ is a big strategy shift for Google and could, if executed well, become another digital revenue stream ti augment the search cash cow.


What about Valve and their digital games platform: Steam. I know they are a private company and figures are hard to come by but in 2011 Forbes reckoned they have more than 50% of the 4 billion dollar PC games download market. That is huge.

I would really love to see Paid Content do some investigation on Valve because they are an incredibly innovative company who really push digital retailing to its limits.


Groupon and Monster are’t really media companies. I’m not even sure that ad agencies should qualify in the same category as Viacom or Time Warner. Totally different business model.


Why is eBay not in this list? They have an ad business on and their classified sites, and the seller fees they collect are essentially paid ads since the platform doesn’t handle the items. This list is also missing Alibaba Group from China (including Taobao), and Gree from Japan.


Does this list distinguish between companies that charge users for access and those that do not, or was that weighted in the rankings?

Zato Gibson

“Creating this list wasn’t easy.”

I can imagine. Manipulating the numbers to get Microsoft into the top 10 must have been really tough.


Yes, but they still should have had time to comment on the fact that MSN is no longer part of Microsoft and hasn’t been for several weeks. Sure that means they get to claim the revenue for this year but at least point out that they won’t have it next year.

Robert Andrews

The Microsoft profile page says: “Microsoft recently sold its stake in”
And the research period for all companies here predates that sale.
Any revenue change as a result will be reflected in next year’s pC50.

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