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Media & Entertainment

With Fortnite investment, Sony takes step to build streaming empire

Netflix fears wildly popular US game as a greater threat than cable TV

A virtual tour in Fortnite by American rapper Travis Scott drew nearly 28 million viewers over three days.

TOKYO -- Sony gains a platform to marry its music and movie assets with games and build a real presence in the streaming world with its decision to invest $250 million in the operator of Fortnite, the hit online game big enough to compete with such video juggernauts as Netflix.

Fortnite was developed as a battle royal by U.S.-based Epic Games. It now boasts more than 350 million accounts worldwide and has grown into one of the largest esports titles.

Sony will take a stake of around 1.4% under its investment in Epic.

"Through our investment, we will explore opportunities for further collaboration with Epic to delight and bring value to consumers and the industry at large, not only in games, but also across the rapidly evolving digital entertainment landscape," Sony President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said in a news release.

The two companies already had ties. Fortnite is available on Sony's PlayStation 4 console, and Sony uses Epic technology for in-house games and virtual-reality music videos.

But the Japanese conglomerate is interested in more than Epic's technological know-how as Fortnite evolves into a more comprehensive entertainment platform. American rapper Travis Scott, who is signed to Sony Music Entertainment, held virtual concerts in the game this April. The event was viewed by nearly 28 million unique players over three days. Sony wants to tap the interactive aspects of Fortnite to promote its own music and movies as well.

That the investment came from Sony's U.S. headquarters, instead of the group's games operation, also signals hopes for comprehensive cross-industry collaboration with Epic.

Netflix has said it competes more with Fortnite than with cable television. The American video-streaming service sees the game as a growing threat in the battle for viewers' screen time.

Under Yoshida, Sony has aspired to a two-pronged approach of exploitation and exploration. The focus so far had been mainly on exploitation, or developing existing businesses, such as through the 2018 acquisition of EMI Music Publishing.

But the company is starting to actively pour resources into exploring new opportunities as well. It announced in April an investment in Chinese video-streaming platform Bilibili. With Fortnite in its corner, Sony stands to better go up against the Netflixes of the world.

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