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Sony’s PlayStation Network Director on Using Exclusive Content to Compete

How did Sony’s original reality show The Tester perform on the PlayStation Network? And what does the success of such content mean for the competition with Xbox Live?

When Sony launched The Tester last February, it was the company’s first foray into producing a popular entertainment TV show for its PlayStation Network. Well, the show has finished its run of eight episodes, with Will Powers winning the coveted job at SCEA. But how did Sony’s gamble into original content perform? “We’ve achieved 2 million views of The Tester, which is pretty much right up there with our top free game demo downloads like God of War 3 or Infamous,” said Susan Panico, Senior Director of the PlayStation Network. “What that tells us is this type of content has really high relevancy and entertainment value for our audience.”

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Will Powers, The Tester

And Sony won’t stop with The Tester; they have an entire network of gamers to consider. Panico said, “With 40 million PSN registrants, that closely rivals a DirecTV install base. While we are not directly competing there, we have a very captivated audience. It makes sense for us to continue to build up our stable of original content. There’s a ton of content out there you can get across various devices–whether it’s your PDA, or your cell phone, or your PC, or what have you; one of the distinguishing factors that is going to drive device usage is content you can’t get anywhere else.”

PlayStation Network

This approach seems to be working. A recent survey noted that 78% of PS3 owners are on PSN, the highest percentage of any game console. “There’s a lot of great, rock-solid, fun, entertaining games and other types of content that just aren’t available at other places,” Panico said. “We’re not a hardcore gamer’s proposition. PlayStation Network offers a breadth of content and entertainment that is a very open and welcoming environment for a broader range of users.”

Sony’s exclusive content may be giving them an edge in attach rate, but it is a close race: Xbox Live is only slightly behind with 73% usage, despite over half the users (of a larger install base) paying for the service. Doesn’t that reveal that a paid service works, that Sony should seek such revenue? “We’re free; we don’t gate the online gaming. With our competitor, if you have a device in the household, you have to pay for two subscriptions if you want both your kids to access the network. We don’t do that. Their offering is focused on gating features for the games that they sell, so I think that helps keep their registration rate up,” Panico said.

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His work has also been published by Kill Screen, Tom's Guide, Tech Times, MTV Geek, GameSpot, Gamasutra, Laptop Mag, Co.Create, and Co.Labs. Focusing on the creativity and business of gaming, he is always up for a good interview or an intriguing feature.

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