Hollywood studios look to harness big potential of another small screen

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Call it marketing for the can't-sit-still generation.

Entertainment companies-including most of the major Hollywood studios-are latching onto Sony's new PlayStation Portable, using the go-anywhere gaming and media device to market upcoming movies, TV shows, music and more. The studios, suffering through a box-office slump and looking for ways to wring more ancillary revenue from their product, are releasing movies specifically for the tiny platform faster than they launched DVD titles when that market started to percolate in the late `90s.

With 70 titles planned to be released by year's end, it's clear studio executives believe PSP, with its cutting-edge graphics on a 4 3/4 inch screen, is poised to become the dominant hand-held gadget for watching movies.

The sleek gadget, which costs $249, has sold about 3 million units, mostly in Asia and the U.S. Studio executives predict there will be between 6 million and 8 million PSPs in North American households within a year.

Viacom's Paramount has taken the most aggressive stance in producing specifically for PSP, including a promotion for the remake of "The Longest Yard" with Chris Rock and Adam Sandler. Consumers can download exclusive video from the movie and its trailer at a specially-created Web site.

"We couldn't wait to be on this medium," says Amy Powell, Paramount's VP-interactive marketing. "It's fun, it's innovative, it's mobile, and it's reaching people that are very important to us."

Other upcoming films, like the Steven Spielberg-Tom Cruise thriller "War of the Worlds" and comic-based "Aeon Flux" likely will get face time on the PSP, Powell says.

Cablevision's music-devoted Fuse TV has started releasing two-to-four-minute bits of content for the PSP from a few of its shows. Within the next six months, the network will make available exclusive pieces of all its shows, ranging from a live daily music video countdown to hip-hop showcases, said Robert Weiss, Fuse's head of entertainment. The channel's ad sales team plans to sell spots around that content, and may offer to bring its marketing clients along by fall, Weiss says. Fuse counts among its existing advertisers such blue chippers as Coca-Cola Co., Nike, Target and Verizon.

HITTING THE YOUNG MEN

Hollywood studios' home entertainment divisions are rushing to fill the PSP channel with content. In a first for Hollywood, Paramount Home Entertainment will release "Sahara" for PSP at the same time it launches the DVD.

The studio also is mining its recent young-male-targeted hits and its library for product to release to the PSP, which uses a format called universal media disc. Among the upcoming launches are "Team America: World Police," "Without a Paddle" and, from siblings MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, "Viva La Bam: Volume 1," "Chappelle's Show: Volume 1 Uncensored" and "SpongeBob SquarePants: The Movie."

The PSP is far from mass, but studio executives say it's the influencer quality of the user that's important. "It's a key audience for any entertainment property," says Chris Saito, Paramount Home Entertainment's VP-marketing. "It's important for us to establish a presence in this mobile living room."

Hip and handy

Studios are tapping into the PlayStation Portable because of its popularity with influencers. "It’s a key audience for any entertainment property," says Chris Saito of Paramount.

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