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Sony launching PlayStation 3 video download service tonight

July 15, 2008 |  3:08 pm

Logopsnetworkvert3Sony Corp. is finally launching its long-awaited video download service for the PlayStation 3 video game console.

The company said it would start selling and renting movies and TV shows through its PlayStation Network tonight. MGM, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount, Turner Entertainment and of course Sony Pictures are making titles available.

PlayStation 3 owners will be able to buy TV shows for $1.99 and up. They can also rent movies for $2.99 to $5.99 and buy them for $9.99 to $14.99. For example, “Cloverfield” can be purchased for $14.99 or rented for $3.99. A high-definition version rents for $5.99.

Videos purchased through the PS3 can be transferred to Sony’s PSP hand-held game console.

Studio executives told us in April that the online video service was coming as soon as this summer. We wrote then:

It would follow two other disappointing online ventures backed by Sony in recent years: Movielink, which attempted to become the online equivalent of the video store for mainstream Hollywood movies before being sold last year to Blockbuster Inc.; and Sony Connect, the company’s response to Apple’s iTunes download service. It shut down in March.

The latest service, provided through the online PlayStation Network, is Sony’s attempt to stage a comeback in digital entertainment distribution. The maker of the once-dominant Walkman portable music player is still smarting from its defeat by Apple in the online music revolution.

Sony’s service does have a leg up on the Apple TV set-top box, because ...

... there are 10 million PS3s attached to television sets in the U.S. and they also play video games. "If they can get content comparable to Apple's, there's no reason to buy Apple TV over a PS3,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities. “The movie offering was impressive.”

But Microsoft is out in front with its Xbox Live service. The software company said Monday that its members had spent $1 billion on downloadable games, movies and TV shows since the game network was introduced two years ago.

Hoping to entice millions of PS2 owners to upgrade to the PS3, Sony said today that it would introduce an 80-gigabyte version of its PS3 for $399.99 this fall. It currently sells a 40-gig version for the same price. Sony is struggling with the high cost of components for the console. Its games division lost billions during its last fiscal year. By providing a bigger hard drive, Sony is trying to give buyers a reason to choose its machine over less expensive rival consoles without cutting its price.

Jack Tretton, head of Sony's PlayStation business in the U.S., declared, "2008 is the year of the PlayStation 3."

Sony has lagged behind its rivals in the console war. Though still behind Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii, the PS3 has started to gain ground with the help of games such as Metal Gear Solid 4 and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, which can be played only on the PS3.

"The PS3 is selling itself now," said John Taylor of Arcadia Investments. "Their momentum looks pretty good."

-- Alex Pham

Image courtesy of Sony

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