VidZone: PS3 beating online and broadcast music rivals
Music labels flocking to PlayStation 3 service; commerce and territory expansion expected soon; features update in September
The PlayStation 3 music video on demand service, VidZone, is proving more popular than online and broadcast TV rivals, claims its co-founders, with music labels flocking to the service to see their artists covered by the growing format.
And speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz, VidZone Digital Media has revealed that part of an aggressive expansion will involve adding commerce to the service and rolling it out into new territories.
"In terms of the music we're receiving for the service we're getting offered a number of world premiers of music videos ahead of MTV, MSN or Yahoo," said Louisa Jackson, director of marketing for VidZone.
"We had to approach the major record labels to begin with but now it's a case of labels coming back to us and saying 'okay, how can you lead the music video strategy for the new music release of our artists?'. Which is really exciting because we've gone from watching a music video on TV to watching online, to a console where you're watching both online and in a broadcast environment simultaneously."
"By both gaming and music industry standards it's been a phenomenal success," she added.
The videogame business is once again taking the music industry into new, profitable markets, something that started with real artists featured on game soundtracks, and lead to projects like DJ Hero, which features an entirely exclusive soundtrack of remixes and mash-ups from producers and DJs.
"That's a key point with exclusives because the record labels have really seen the success of the VidZone platform and the scale of it," added Michael Russo, director of new business development. "And it's proving itself by the number of exclusives that we're being offered over other platforms, including TV."
Latest figures from VidZone put the number of music videos at 13,000, with over one hundred million views, and Russo admits the company is pushing to grow those numbers rapidly. "We have quite an aggressive roll-out strategy and we would expect the numbers to increase quite rapidly over the next six to twelve months," he said.
Although keeping plans under wraps, it's likely there will be commerce elements added to the service, although watching videos on demand will remain a free service on the PlayStation 3.
"We'll make some announcements in the near future about a number of different services and elements we're going to be adding. Some of which revolve around more paid for items associated with music," confirmed Russo. "We are exploring opportunities about interacting with other music related products around the music video. Whether they are available free or are charged is still being debated."
Although VidZone is operated by an external company, Sony still has close involvement in the service. An update in September will add new features, including viewing videos in 16 x 9 format, improved search functions and remote keyboard support – all of which have been requested by users.
Sony would eventually like to grow the service around the PlayStation 3 consumer, in a similar way to its thriving online SingStar and Buzz communities.
"It would be great to built the whole community aspect, if you look at SingStar and Buzz, it would be great if we could harness that within VidZone," offered Clare Sandford, European product manager for VidZone at Sony. "Whether it's the ability to share playlists with your friends or watch videos with your friends and make comments, there's plans to enhance it."
The success of the service caught Sony by surprise, admits Sandford, but it was always a project that was going have difficult comparisons compared to more traditional videogames.
"It was difficult to have expectations because it's kind of unprecedented," she said. "It's our first real music service so it's difficult to benchmark against other things. We've had other non-game music initiatives on a smaller scale but largely the only other thing we looked at which is a free application and service was Home. It was difficult to assess how well it would do.
"On the one hand it was interesting see what the reaction would be from the community by producing a non-game service and whether we should be actually putting money more into games rather than these features. But on the other hand with a free application there's that expectation that if it's free people will download it for at least a look. We're really happy with how it's done."
While the service is only currently available in a handful of European countries and Australia, expansion to other regions is a priority for VidZone.
"We will make some announcements shortly about territory expansion. There are plans to do that, but I can't comment any further," concluded Russo.