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Industry Sees Promise for PSP Movies

30 Jun, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

There's reason to be cautiously optimistic about the Universal Media Disc (UMD), according to panelists at this week's Fourth Annual Home Entertainment Summit: DVD Magic 8.

In fact, Lions Gate Home Entertainment — the first studio after Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) to announce a UMD release slate — has accelerated its release plans for UMD based on its initial sales, said Ron Schwartz, EVP of home video sales for Lions Gate.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is taking a more measured approach, said Todd Rowan, VP of marketing for the studio.

“What we're seeing at retail is a real lack of merchandising vision for UMD,” Rowan said.

The positive response to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) hardware is undeniable, said Don Eklund, SVP of advanced technologies for SPHE. More than 3 million PSPs have been sold in the United States and Japan — the only markets where the product is available. SPHE titles on UMD have already sold nearly 1 million units, he said, despite a lack of cohesive in-store promotional and merchandising support on the retail front.

It's pretty clear already that titles appealing to the 18-35 male demographic are performing best, panelists said.

Paramount Home Entertainment is including in its second wave of UMD titles a “SpongeBob SquarePants” title and a “South Park” volume, said Chris Saito, VP of marketing for Paramount Home Entertainment. It will be interesting to see if consumers pick up on the PSP as a TV programming alternative, Saito said. It could pique the interest of consumers who may not want to watch a full feature-length movie on the handheld device.

Other panelists said they will be watching Paramount's test of TV product closely.

Factors like pricing and packaging should be considered before launching complete-season TV programming on UMD, Fox's Rowan said.

The 1.8 GB UMD disc will hold 135 minutes of programming, roughly six episodes of a TV show.

The burning question about UMD that has yet to be answered, all speakers agreed, is will it be an incremental sale for the market or will UMD titles steal sales from DVD releases?

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