You have to also realize that the exact same sales figures can mean a success to Shout! and a failure to Sony based on their profit points. Somy has a huge overhead to help cover; Shout! a MUCH smaller one. You can't look only at how many units sell or how much profit, but what does that profit mean to the studio.
If your employer said, "You know, we decided to give you just $10,000 for your year's work," would you really accept it and think to yourself, "Well, making $10,000 is better than making nothing." Of course not. You have a base expense amount you have to cover every year, and an amount of value for your work that together makes up what you deem worthwhile to accept for your time and efforts. Same with the studios. It's an awful lot of work to go through for a "mere" say $75,000 profit on a season for Sony, which probably wouldn't pay a fraction of their employee medical insurance but might pay it all and then some for Shout!, making it far more worthwhile for them than for Sony.
John, I don't agree. Your example is a weak one, because I just can't survive on $10,000. On the other hand, the companies are very wealthy. A better example would have been if my employer said "We'll give you $1,000,000 a year for your hard work, and then an extra $10,000 on the side -- would you take that?"
Money is money, sometimes the studios will hit a home run out of the ballpark and sometimes they'll only hit triples, doubles, or singles... maybe a bunt now and then. But it's all profit, and all of it benefits them because they're pleasing all types of customers everywhere at different levels. They may want to make million$, but sometimes you have to settle for hundred$ in between. Everybody's happy, and a mega-studio will not go bankrupt with a few modest profits in between the blockbusters. So sometimes a profit can buy one of those suits a mansion... other times, they've only earned some dinner cash. But it's all good and there's room for everything. Now, if all they did was consistently LOSE millions of dollars, that's another matter. It's all about selfishness, greed, and expecting too much.