Let's hope Sony gets it right this time: may launch movie/TV download service for PlayStation

sony ps3Word that Sony may be again launching a movie and TV download service was met today with interest and a bit of much-deserved scoffing.

It’s not like Sony hasn’t tried this before. Remember Movielink? Thought so. (It was sold to Blockbuster, by the way.) Remember Sony Connect? It shut down in March.

Heck, since the monumental success of the Walkman ages ago — in an analog world far, far away — Sony has pretty much failed at every digital offering, minus the early PlayStations and some home theater equipment. The whole digital music thing passed Sony by as Apple took over the Walkman mantle with the iPod, iTunes, and the rest of its digital lifestyle ecosystem.

The Los Angeles Times today reported that Sony is again in talks with Hollywood muckety-mucks regarding a download service that would beam movies and television shows from the Internet to the PlayStation 3.

But because said muckety-mucks are hush-hush over the negotiations, not much else is known — no pricing or if the movies and TV shows are for rent or purchase. One tantalizing tidbit, however, is being floated about.

sony“Unlike closed networks such as Apple’s, Sony plans to embrace open standards that would make its offering compatible with a range of computers and hand-held devices, including the PlayStation Portable,” the LA Times notes.

Sony, a staunch proponent of digital rights management (remember the now-defunct ATRAC?), declined comment, but a post on the Inside PlayStation Network blog alludes to a possibly-changing mindset.

“While I don’t have any new announcements,” wrote Peter Dille, senior vice president of marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc., “it’s already been confirmed that we’ll be offering a video service for PS3 in a way that separates the service from others you’ve seen or used.”

Those services are numerous — Microsoft’s Xbox Live marketplace, Apple TV, Vudu, Amazon’s Unbox, TiVo, and even rumored set-top box services from Netflix and Blockbuster. While online video sales pale in comparison with DVD sales ($95 million to $23.4 billion, respectively), analysts expect online video sales to be a fast-growing market with $6.4 billion in revenue by 2010.

sony  home logoFor Sony to make any headway here, its movie/TV download service will have to go beyond the PS3 install base (four million in the U.S.) and the offerings from Microsoft, Apple, Vudu, Amazon, TiVo, and mostly likely Netflix and/or Blockbuster. It should take the game up a notch and create something new, like social networking through its virtual world Home where friends can watch a movie together in-world and group chat with their Home avatars.

Talk of supporting many devices is tantalizing and a great start, if it is indeed true. But Sony watchers all scoff at the notion the company can do it right, even with a third try.

Rafat Ali at paidContent.org wrote, “By now, I have lost count on the number of times Sony has started working for movie/video download services” and “Sony could as well be spelt ‘Silo.’”

And oft-quoted today is Richard Doherty, senior analyst at consultancy Envisioneering Group, “Sony has this blessing and curse of (having) some of the world’s smartest intellectual property lawyers, who’ve never built or marketed a product in their life.”

Ouch.

We only hope — in the spirit of true digital lifestyle innovation and competition — that Sony gets it right and gets back in the game where they belong.

PlayTV

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last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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