Back at the International CES confab in January, Sony Computer Entertainment Group CEO Andrew House touted the upcoming arrival of a new cloud-based service in the U.S. that would include the “most popular live TV programs combined with a large library of VOD content,” although he offered no specifics. Now, 10 months later, the mystery has been solved. Sony Network Entertainment International and Sony Computer Entertainment today unveiled subscription service PlayStation Vue with the promise that it “reinvents the television experience.” Bypassing cable and satellite, customers will have access to live, on-demand and catch-up television content from such partners as CBS, Discovery Communications, Fox, NBCUniversal, Scripps Networks Interactive and Viacom. Speaking earlier this week, CBS’ Les Moonves teased details of the partnership saying, “Sony is going to do an offering that’s very interesting” with “more bells and whistles” and “more VOD content.” The public at large will see for itself when PlayStation Vue is launched commercially in early 2015.
In the meantime, select PlayStation3 and PlayStation4 owners will be given a Beta preview starting this month. There are about 35M PS3 and PS4 users, ranging in age from 18-35, providing a strong base from the start. Amit Nag, senior director of business management and content for PlayStation Vue, told the Wall Street Journal, “We’re going after the PlayStation user who is today not watching TV and driving a large ratings decline and is at high risk” for abandoning the pay-TV ecosystem. A phased roll-out will begin in New York, followed by Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. There’s no word on pricing as yet, but Sony says the service will be offered on a month-to-month basis with no contracts or penalties, and promises “what you see is what you pay for.”
“Everyday TV is about to become extraordinary,” said House today. Programming will “effortlessly” find the customer thanks to a “powerful” user interface that promises “unprecedented personalization and simplicity,” Sony said. The “smart” service will connect viewers to content that suits their tastes and will recommend movies and shows based on viewing habits and what’s trending. The past three days’ of popular programming will be available without the need to schedule recordings. Viewers can also save their favorite shows to the cloud without storage restrictions and once they tag a favorite, they will automatically have access to episodes of that show for 28 days.
The announcement today, House said, “builds on the historic success of PlayStation4 and demonstrates what our company is capable of when we embrace disruption and stay true to gamers.” During the Beta phase, the service will offer around 75 channels per market from the existing partners with further partners to be announced.
Sony is joining others in the over-the-top arena including HBO which recently announced an OTT HBO Go service for launch in 2015 in the U.S., and CBS itself unveiled CBS All Access, a $5.99-a-month subscription streaming service, which went live in October. Verizon also has similar plans.