Portable Movie Sales Dry Up
Sony is running into some problems with the sale of portable movies on the Universal Media Disc (UMD) format for the PlayStation Portable (PSP). Movie companies are pulling many of their future releases for a variety of reasons including:
Many movies do not sell well for the portable device; comedy does fairly well, but the audience isn’t very wide or deep.
People can’t play the PSP version of the movie on their TV and don’t like purchasing the same movie more than once, one time to watch at home and again to watch on the PSP.
With new high-definition versions of movies scheduled to hit store shelves later this year, retailers will require room to stock and sell these new formats. As such, something has to give, and that would be the poorly performing UMDs.
Here's what Sony SHOULD have done from the get-go:
Never imagined the UMD
The PSP should run games off of ROM chips (not Flash ROM for those claiming it would be too expensive). The PSP would have had faster loading times, better battery life, greater durability/reliability, and could be smaller. Instead, we are stuck with the already outdated UMD format and all the drawbacks of optical discs. The only advantage of the UMDs are the amount of storage space they provide, important for movies, not as much for games. This one is kind of hard to undo since the PSP has already been available for a year. It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility with a redesign akin to the Nintendo DS Lite.
The PSP should have launched with a video download service where users could buy movies online and save them to Memory Stick. Sony would make a killing on Memory Stick sales. Instead, they let Apple and Google beat them to the punch. Now sales of UMDs dwindle.
Make the PS3 a Recorder
The PS3 will come with the ability to playback DVDs. Why not embed the ability to copy the contents of a DVD to a Memory Stick for viewing on the PSP? Sony could control the fair-rights copyright within the PS3 and PSP since they create the hardware for both. They could enforce that your are only allowed to copy the DVD to a PSP a set number of times, much like iTunes handles digitally rights managed music.
Here’s why it would be successful:
Many movies do not sell well on UMDs, and producing a movie on UMD is a fairly expensive affair. Discs have to be duplicated, packaging printed, UMDs shipped to retailers, etc. Stocking movies online would remove the production form the costs of the movie, allowing Sony and the movie studio to reap more of the cost of the sale. The online store could be tailored to suggest new movies to PSP owners based on their previous viewing habits.
PSP owners would buy more movies if they were cheaper. This increases the value of the device to the consumer, ensuring they utilize the PSP more often, for longer and in public. Public use of the PSP is free advertising for Sony. Sony should think of the PSP as a long-term relationship rather than trying to gouge consumers with each $20+ UMD sale.
If people could buy a DVD and use the PS3 to watch it on their TV as well as use it to copy the DVD to the PSP, people would see a greater value in both the PSP and the PS3. It would solve the problem consumers have with buying two copies of the same movie, an understandable complaint.
High Definition movies wouldn’t compete with UMDs in retail if there was a good digital distribution method for acquiring movies or creating portable versions of DVDs. Sony is already fighting to make sure their Bluray formay is the HD movie format of choice, why would they want to battle against themselves for shelf-space? It essentially cuts into either their HD-movie retail space OR their UMD movie shelf space. Either way, Sony loses.