Report: UMD Movies Close to Failure

Press reports indicate that Sony's proprietary Universal Media Disc may be in danger of failure as a movie format. Although sales of the PlayStation Portable -- the device used to play the disc -- are quite impressive, sales of movies in the format have been lackluster at best.

UMD movie releases have become more sporadic, and some studios have either stopped producing the disc or cut back on plans.

Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures and Image Entertainment all have stopped producing movies on UMD; 20th Century Fox and Buena Vista have cut back on new releases. Even Sony Pictures itself has silently scaled back its UMD release plans.

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Studios are apparently not happy either with the response to UMD. At least one high-ranking executive called the format "another Sony bomb," and likened it to Blu-ray, Sony's upcoming next-generation optical disc format.

There is much speculation over why the format never took off, but some say an oversaturation of the market could be to blame. Over 200 movies were released in only the first few months of the PSP's retail life, according to statistics. But a real issue among consumers was pricing, with UMD films priced as high, or higher, than DVD versions.

The next generation PSP unit will have the ability to connect to a television screen for viewing, which just could be the format's saving grace, analysts say. However, it's unclear when this feature would make it to retail, and if by then it would be too late to save UMD.

Sony executives will reportedly begin approaching studios about these plans next week.

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