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UMD Movies Aimed at Young Men

2 Jun, 2005 By: Judith McCourt

As the DVD market matures, the Universal Media Disc (UMD) is becoming an increasingly attractive option for suppliers in search of incremental revenue. Indeed, the format, for Sony's hot new PlayStation Portable (PSP), provides suppliers with the opportunity to leverage existing brands and entice consumers to buy, for a second time, a title they already own.

The strategy works best in the lucrative teen and young-male market that dominates the world of hand-held gaming and also is most likely to watch movies on PSP, as they've done for years on PlayStation 2 and other consoles.

The quick adoption of the format is a function of the low retail price of the hardware and the ready availability of product. PSP units were launched in March at less than $250, nearly half the $489.97 that the first DVD player retailed for eight years earlier.

In 1997, the first year that DVD players were available to consumers, 305,000 units sold through, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. In the second full year, another 946,000 players were sold. Only after the average player price dropped below $300 in 1999 did sales begin to soar.

Sony's PSP, in turn, sold more than 500,000 players in a few days, and after less than two months the sales tally stands at an estimated 1.3 million units.

On the software side, in 1997 suppliers had to re-engineer product and educate the consumer. With its bonus materials, commentaries and menus, DVD was a completely different product than the videocassette, which really was nothing more than a movie in a box.

With UMD, however, it's simply a matter of repurposing existing product — even to the point of bonus materials, which some studios are adding on, as well.In DVD's inaugural year, 528 titles were released on disc. According to The DVD Release Report, 86 UMD titles have either been released or placed in the pipeline. If that pace keeps up, far more UMD titles will be in the market after 12 months than DVD's first-year count.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, part of the same family as PSP, has been the format's most ardent studio supporter. So far, Sony has issued seven titles, with another 27 announced. The studio is taking square aim at the lucrative young-male demographic, from Spider-Man 2 — bundled with the player in a launch “value pack” — to Hellboy, XXX and House of Flying Daggers.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment jumped in right away as well, with five titles in stores and another 12 on their way. Buena Vista also is going after young males with such films as the “Kill Bill” duo, but has a broader “market basket” with such family-friendly titles as National Treasure and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

The other majors supporting UMD — Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment — also are focusing on the so-called “testosterone” market with mostly action films and other special-effects-heavy fare popular with teens and young males.

Paramount is even taking things a step further by bringing to UMD edgy television shows like “Chappelle's Show” and “South Park.”

Two-thirds of the UMD titles announced to date are relatively recent theatricals, having bowed on the big screen in 1997 or later.

While most UMD releases are already available on DVD, some studios are experimenting with day-and-date UMD-DVD bows, perhaps hoping for a double buy.

Sony used this strategy with House of Flying Daggers and was rewarded with unit sales in excess of 100,000 UMD copies, according to studio sources, even though the PSP had only been in the market less than two months.

It wasn't until nine months after DVD launched that the first DVD title, Air Force One, hit the 100,000-unit mark.

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