Video download service set for summer

Sony is launching its long-promised video download service on the PlayStation 3 this summer, though it has yet to get most of Hollywood aboard.

At a Tokyo press conference on Thursday, vidgame topper Kaz Hirai announced plans to allow users to download movies and TV shows via the PS3 game console starting this summer in the U.S. and soon thereafter in Europe and Asia. Company has said such a service was in the works since the PS3 debuted in 2006.

However, insiders at numerous studios said they don’t yet have deals in place to offer their movies on the PS3. Sony Pictures is believed to be the only one already confirmed.

Sources in discussion with Sony also said that the conglom is aiming to take the service beyond the type of rentals already available on Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Apple’s iTunes and numerous other websites. That could include the ability to move downloads from the PS3 to the portable PSP game device and to transfer copies onto the PS3 and PSP from a Blu-ray disc.

Videogame consoles are seen by many in Hollywood as a lucrative tool for Internet video downloads since they’re already connected to the TV. Microsoft’s Xbox Live Video Marketplace is believed to be the second most successful Internet videostore after iTunes.

Sony will likely unveil details about its videostore at the E3 confab in Los Angeles next month. At the same event, Microsoft is expected to announce a partnership with Netflix under which users will be able to stream movies from that company’s “watch now” service onto a TV via the Xbox 360.

Topper Howard Stringer also said Sony will launch a streaming video service for its new line of Internet-connected Bravia television sets this fall. The first pic will be Sony’s “Hancock,” which will be available to stream on Bravia TVs before it’s released on DVD.

Stringer said that over the next three fiscal years — through March 2011 — Sony intends to put Internet connections in 90% of its electronic devices.

Other goals include bringing the videogames group into the black this fiscal year; doubling earnings from Brazil, Russia, India and China to 2 billion yen ($18.6 billion) by fiscal 2010; and reaching 5% operating profits overall.

(Mark Schilling in Tokyo contributed to this report.)

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