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Andrew House - Part One

The SCEE president on the PS3 Video Delivery Service, and the increasing impact of Blu-ray in entertainment

Today Sony Computer Entertainment Europe launched the Video Delivery Service for PlayStation users, with over 2000 movies available across the territories, including 800 for the UK alone.

In an industry exclusive interview, GamesIndustry.biz spoke to the company's president and CEO, Andrew House about the timing of the launch, what was involved in bringing it to market, and how much of an impact Blu-ray is having over time on the value proposition of the corporation's flagship PlayStation 3 console. Part two will follow next week.

GamesIndustry.biz You're launching the Video Delivery Service today - why is now a good time to do so? Is it because it's ready now, or because you wanted to do it after the launches of the PlayStation 3 Slim and PSPgo?
Andrew House

I think it's a combination of those factors. First and foremost, clearly - if you're going to launch a sufficiently robust Video Delivery Service in Europe then that requires full support from all the Hollywood studios, but another critical component is making sure we have the right mix of local content as well.

That takes somewhat longer in terms of the range of partners that are involved, making sure those business deals are put to bed - so I think in some part we didn't want to launch the service until we had all of those components in place, and that's come together now.

Also, we felt that we were launching at a time - as it turns out, fairly correctly predicting - that with the launch of the PS3 Slim and the new price point that there would be a significant shift in momentum in the market place. It's a good time to have a more... let's say "family-friendly" price point, to be able to start to introduce services which probably have a broader appeal to the mass market than just pure videogame focus.

So I think it was a culmination of those factors that made this feel it was the right time to move ahead.

GamesIndustry.biz How pleased are you with the content line-up at launch, and how will you look to grow it over time?
Andrew House

Well I think there's a good template there to look at with our US service, where obviously we've had the benefits of seeing their progress, and learning from what's worked there and been successful.

If you look at their content, they've grown something like 700 per cent in terms of content from launch to where it sits right now, some year and three months later - so I think we'll look to follow a similar track.

Again - it'll be a little bit more complex, because we're trying to maintain that mix between Hollywood content as well as local studio content, and also I think we'll see short form and television become part of that play as well.

But I think we're in a good spot - I think we have something like 2000 movies available at launch, which is a pretty substantial library. Break that down to a per-country basis and there's around 800 films available for the UK, for example.

So we're starting out with a really strong offering - there's plenty there to choose from, a tremendous number of current hits - and then I think we'll grow it somewhere in the region I hope of about an additional 50 movies per week. So that'll encourage return traffic, people coming back, something new for them there to check out - we're feeling fairly comfortable about the content line-up we've got, and that's led us again to this being the right time to launch.

GamesIndustry.biz And that's a mix of more recent films, as well as classics, on a weekly basis?
Andrew House

Yes, it'll be catalogue movies as well as refreshing with newer releases.

GamesIndustry.biz In the context of Microsoft having recently launched new film and TV content on the Xbox platform in association with Sky, do you feel it's a more difficult process to handle all the negotiations internally, as opposed to having a partner take care of it?
Andrew House

I think there's an ease of ability. What's great about Sony is that with all the different parts of the organisation working in concert more closely together we have in-built expertise on the content provision side - because we have a major studio in our portfolio of companies.

This has been working absolutely hand-in-glove with a division called Sony Media Software & Services, whose expertise is in building the business relationships necessary to secure content - as well as building the systems and back-end necessary to deliver them.

And then of course what I think - and hope - that Sony Computer Entertainment brings to the mix is the strength of the PlayStation brand and an understanding of the European consumer, a sense of what local tastes demand, and being able to package that together as a really good offering for a PlayStation consumer - a consumer that's entertainment-savvy and knows a lot about hi-def and videogames.

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Phil Elliott