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PlayStation Sees Rev. Spike

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Sony has enjoyed a 60 percent spike in ad revenue this year for the Sony PlayStation Network, its fast growing entertainment service aimed at PlayStation gamers, said officials—driven in part by the success of original series such as this year’s hit show The Tester.

But don’t expect Sony to roll out dozens of new original series anytime soon. Since launching the digital gamer magazine Qore a few years ago, the company has encountered a learning curve that it’s still climbing.

“We’ve really had to shift our mindset from a gaming company to a media company,” said Susan Panico, senior director, PlayStation Network. According to Panico, the company has come to realize that the marketing, development and release schedules of video games are far different than Web series. “You need more flexibility,” she said. “Original series are a more passive entertainment. They are a little out of our initial purview. For one thing, we didn’t always have the capability to sell this content.”

That’s gradually changing. For season one of The Tester—a reality series produced by 51 Minds (VH1’s Rock of Love), which features contestants competing to become professional video game testers—Sony did not sell any ads.

But the show, which debuted last January and proved popular, generating 2.5 million downloads. Thus Sony’s new two-person ad sales team has lined up Ford, Electronic Arts and The U.S. Air Force as sponsors. Besides traditional ad placements, sponsors will receive branded entertainment treatment; for example, one episode will take place at an Air Force Base.

The goal for season two is 3.5 million downloads, said Panico. The show has even lined up celebrity judges, including model/reality star Adrianne Curry.

Yet despite the momentum behind The Tester, Panico said that Sony is not looking to schedule dozens of new series. Besides The Tester and Qore, PlayStation Network features the gaming-news-centric show The Pulse. More projects are in the works, but Sony is deliberately moving slowly. Panico cited HBO’s few-new-series-at-a-time philosophy as a model.

“There are more things coming, but you won’t see a huge rollout,” she said. “We have a small [programming] team so we want to really hone in on franchises. It makes perfect sense for us to create content that keeps people coming back.”

And while PlayStation Network series do run on sister Sony site Crackle.com, Panico said there is no truth to rumors that Crackle might become the default content hub for the PlayStation. “I haven’t heard that one,” she said.