NEWS - Monday, April 17, 2006

Paramount Offering HD Trailers On Xbox 360

Coming soon to a video-game console near you: high-definition movie previews. Paramount Pictures Corp. is offering high-def downloads for its upcoming films "Mission: Impossible III" and "Nacho Libre" through Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360. Paramount’s experiment highlights the key role next-generation video-game consoles from Microsoft and Sony Corp. probably will play as more entertainment moves online. Last month, for instance, Epic Records announced it would offer free music-video downloads from emerging artists on Xbox 360. Both efforts reflect the eagerness of entertainment companies to reach a young, elusive audience whose attention is sliced ever thinner by television, computers, game consoles and cellular phones. "It hits the audience in a big way - the 12- to 34-year-old audience. That’s the sweet spot of frequent moviegoers," said Gerry Rich, Paramount’s president of worldwide marketing. "They’re the early adopters. We think they impact and influence a lot of folks. They’re gatekeepers of what’s cool and what’s not." It is also a subtle opportunity for Paramount to plug the technological successor to DVDs. The Xbox 360 is the first of the new generation of game consoles that support high-definition video and surround sound. Paramount’s downloads get the high-definition movie trailers off computer screens and onto a screen where images are more lush. "My guess is they want to sell high-definition discs. You want to get the high-definition monitor owners drooling," said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles. "It’s clever marketing. It’s a good, solid, high-income, early-adopter niche." The ability to extend play beyond the narrow confines of the living room is an increasingly important feature for game consoles. Microsoft says more than half of those who own Xbox 360 game systems - an estimated 2 million people - connect to its online service, Xbox Live, to send and receive voice and text messages, download playable demos of upcoming games or get free entertainment content. That’s a significant change from the original Xbox, which attracted 10 percent of its players online. And it’s what caught the attention of the entertainment industry’s marketing gurus. "Record labels and movie studios are coming to us and trying to figure out new ways to reach their consumers," said Aaron Greenberg, group marketing manager for Xbox Live. "They’re coming to us because the 18- to 34-year-old demographic - which is their core demographic - is becoming harder and harder to reach." Greenberg said the Xbox Live’s digital cul-de-sac, in which content can be downloaded but can’t escape its electronic confines, was particularly appealing to those in the entertainment industry worried about Internet piracy. "It’s ideal for movie studios and record labels to distribute their high-definition assets in a way that’s secure, cannot be copied, cannot be shared but can be viewed," Greenberg said. "It definitely is a factor in allowing us to get the rights." Paramount is now offering high-definition movie trailers for "Mission: Impossible III," a Tom Cruise action-thriller to be released in theaters May 5, and "Nacho Libre," a Jack Black comedy due out June 16. Gamers can customize with art from the movies. "What we’re trying to do," said Amy Powell, Paramount’s senior vice president of interactive marketing, "is blend the frontiers between gaming and movies and offer our content in a way that’s accessible and meaningful to them."

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