Buena Vista Continues UMD Innovation
John Gaudiosi continues his look at the UMD industry and discusses at length about Buena Vista Home Entertainment's future on the PSP.
While Sony Pictures Home Entertainment currently leads the Hollywood pack with the largest selection of new and catalog films on sister company Sony's Universal Media Disc (UMD) format, Buena Vista Home Entertainment (BVHE) remains the creative leader. BVHE was the first studio to mirror the DVD experience by including bonus content on every film possible. While the limits of the 1.8 GB UMD prevents the longer films to incorporate extras, many hit movies have featurettes and deleted scenes that extend the life of the film experience while on the go.
"We're in the process of beginning research that will explore what real value there is in the consumer mind regarding UMD movies," said Dan Silverberg, BVHE's Executive Director of New Business Development. "What we have heard from press reviews and customer service feedback regarding UMD bonus materials has been overwhelmingly positive."
Silverberg said the current in-depth research will help the studio confirm this.
"Our goal with UMDs has remained to bring the consumer as close to the DVD experience as we can, where space permits," said Silverberg.
Silverberg said that while it takes more time and money to author and compress the bonus materials, BVHE believes the end experience is worth it. While only New Line Home Entertainment is currently offering similar DVD bonus materials on its first wave of UMD titles, Silverberg expects more studios to follow suit.
"UMD is still a very early market and the user base will grow rapidly over the holiday season," said Silverberg. "As the DVD user base adopts UMDs, consumers will expect bonus content. And we'll be ahead of the curve."
BVHE has had great early success with UMD movies, with four titles selling over 100,000 units each. The release of Sin City shot past 100,000 in a matter of weeks and is currently one of the best-selling UMDs in the format's short history. Other films that have done well on UMD include Hero, National Treasure and the Kill Bill movies.
"The great thing about UMD, when compared to DVD, is that DVD was designed for one purpose. PSP allows you to play games as well as movies," said Silverberg.
With over 2.3 million units sold to date, PSP is entering its first holiday season. And Sony forecasts its user base to grow to 5 million units by the end of the year. The release of must-have titles like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Madden NFL 06, Burnout Legends and Star Wars Battlefront II will also help expand the user base. Silverberg sees the advent of killer apps for PSP as a win-win for home entertainment companies.
"When it comes down to an economic purchase, a consumer will buy a game and some movies," said Silverberg. "We'll sell more movies down the line because our titles are $15 to $25, roughly half the price of a game."
Another factor that's a positive for UMD sales is that gamers are buying both DVD and UMD versions of hit films. The UMD market is not currently cannibalizing the DVD market. Silverberg said that pre-sales testing for Sin City found that 23 percent of gamers said they would purchase both the UMD and DVD version of the movie.
"It's be great if people bought both, but we're going to sell it one way or the other," said Silverberg.
Silverberg isn't surprised that UMD sales have sold so briskly in a world where illegal movies can be downloaded to flash cards. The cost of 2 GB flash cards is higher than the cost of a UMD movie. He said its incumbent upon the home entertainment studios to make the UMD movie experience more compelling than that of a ripped and stored illegal film download.
BVHE has been broadening its selection of films, releasing younger-skewing titles like The Incredibles and Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition. Silverberg said that the early successes of films like Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure showed that there was an audience beyond the 24 year-old gamer.
"A lot of what we're doing it testing with the audience," said Silverberg, who added that the company has yet to experiment with romantic comedies.
"Lost" is the studio's first foray into TV on UMD. It took years for that market to heat up on DVD, but just after six months on store shelves, PSP already is getting a large variety of TV shows on the portable format.
The gamer remains a key target for BVHE, and Silverberg is looking forward to the future. With UMD movie releases like Resident Evil and Reign of Fire, which have videogame counterparts on Xbox and PlayStation 2, he believes the future will likely include some type of hybrid entertainment - not unlike Sony's Stealth movie game.