Sony Unveils Internet-TV Service, with Content from Discovery, CBS, Scripps, and Others

/ Nov 13, 2014

Sony PlayStation Vue

Sony’s long-awaited cloud-based TV service, which allows users to forego their cable or satellite subscriptions and access live and on-demand TV via their PlayStation consoles, is finally here — sort of.

Sony Network Entertainment International and Sony Computer Entertainment unveiled the new service today, after first announcing it at CES 2014.

Called PlayStation Vue, the service will have a “phased rollout,” according to Sony. Initially, it will be offered in beta to select PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 owners in November. The rollout will begin in New York, followed by an expansion to Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Soon after, Vue will be available on iPads, and then on more Sony and non-Sony devices.

The wide commercial launch is set for the first quarter of 2015.

Vue will function just like your existing cable or satellite service (if you have one): users will be able to sign up and pay for bundles of TV channels from programmers including CBS, Discovery Communications, Fox, NBCUniversal, Scripps Networks Interactive, and Viacom.

In addition to local broadcast stations, this means access to cable channels like MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Discovery, Animal Planet, FX, FXX, National Geographic, Bravo, Syfy, USA, HGTV, Food Network, and Travel Channel. Through its deal with Fox and NBCUniversal, Vue will also offer national sports networks like Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network, and regional sports channels like YES Network.

Overall, Vue is offering 75 channels per market during the beta phase.

Interestingly, the deal with Discovery means Vue will offer the company’s 13 linear channels, but soon the service will also offer access to Discovery’s digital video networks, including Revision3, SourceFed, Animalist, TestTube, and Animal Planet Live.

More digital-native networks could show up on Vue in the future, though Sony declined to name any specific companies. (Notably missing on Vue at launch are Netflix and Hulu Plus, though web-connected users do have access to both apps via the PlayStation Network.)

In terms of pricing and available bundles, Sony said that would be revealed during the commercial launch early next year. Vue will come at a “fair and competitive price,” and will be available on a month-to-month basis with no cancellation fees, the company said.

In terms of features, Vue promises a more intelligent programming guide and search capabilities — it is a digital product after all. Users will have easy access to their favorite shows and channels, and will also receive recommendations based on their viewing habits and what’s trending on the service. Vue’s “Explore” function also allows viewers to filter the entire live and on-demand catalog by factors like type of program, genre, ratings, popularity, and length.

On the VOD side, Vue will make the past three days of programming available without requiring users to schedule recordings. Users will also be able to save their favorite shows to the cloud without storage restrictions. Once tagged, they will have access to episodes of that show for 28 days.

The features are cool, and certainly tackle some of the problems people have with pay-TV — the guide is antiquated, making it near impossible for users to search and find programming that they might want to watch.

But it doesn’t appear that Vue will solve the problem with pay-TV, which is that customers are forced into buying channels they don’t want to watch, at prices they increasingly don’t want to pay. Vue will offer bundles of channels, and the pricing to be similar to (if not more expensive than) what’s offered by existing cable, satellite, and telco distributors.

Will that be enough for the 35-40 million PlayStation owners in the US that the company is clearly targeting? Maybe, but probably not.

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