Gaming Leads Sony's Broadband Trifecta

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NEW YORK-Sony Broadband Entertainment will likely have three major online subscription services in the movie, music and gaming arenas by year-end, largely built on broadband transmission platforms from cable systems and digital subscriber lines.

And though Sony's music and movie initiatives have garnered the most attention, its gaming service may be the entertainment giant's most successful venture.

Speaking at a Jupiter Media Forum here March 2, Sony Broadband Entertainment executive vice president and chief strategy officer Rob Wiesenthal said the company's online gaming service has attracted 300,000 subscribers, who pay $9.95 a month for 20 hours worth of gaming activities on Sony's Web site.

The majority of those subscribers use broadband connections, Wiesenthal said. Everquest,
a multiplayer role-playing game along the lines of Dungeons & Dragons, is among the more popular titles, he said.

The gaming service will serve as a model for Sony's online music and movie services, expected to roll out this summer.

"Sony is working on an IP [Internet-protocol]-based VOD [video-on-demand] service aimed at the PC initially," Wiesenthal said. No pricing has been set for the downloading service, he added.

Sony is talking to other studios about joining the service, which Wiesenthal sees as eventually migrating to the set-top box.

"We could download movies to a PVR [personal video recorder] and have another window for our library," he said.

Using a "slow" cable modem, movies could be downloaded in 30 to 40 minutes, he said.

By using the Internet, Sony can market directly to consumers without dealing with cable operators or other middlemen like In Demand or Blockbuster Inc.

"We wanted to start with something that was achievable from day one," Wiesenthal said.

Wiesenthal acknowledged consumers could receive a lot of different bills for broadband services.

"Over a period of time, there will be a lot of bills," Wiesenthal acknowledged. But he said "content is something that has value and that you should pay for," a not-so-gentle reference to music file-sharing service Napster Inc.

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