Sony plans to launch an online video download service next year, according to reports in both the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The service has been developed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and will allow users to download movies uing a computer and store them on MemoryStick memory cards for viewing on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) handheld games device, said the Financial Times. and existing movie download sites like Movielink and CinemaNow are in talks with Sony to use the service, which will launch in the first quarter of 2007, the newspaper reported in its online edition.

Sony is also working on a service that would allow downloads directly to the PSP, said The Wall Street Journal's online edition.

Spokespeople for both Sony and Sony Computer Entertainment in Tokyo deferred requests for comment to the company's US offices, which were closed.

Sony has already tried to expand the PlayStation Portable's uses beyond gaming to movies. It began offering movies on the small discs used by the PSP but sales have been low and the movies never caught on among many users.

The successful launch of a movie download service could help flagging sales of PSPs and give Sony something with which to challenge Apple's iTunes Store.