Sony said today that it is expanding its OTT service PlayStation Vue to Los Angeles and San Francisco starting tonight and will offer a la carte channels across the country next month. Andrew House, head of Sony Computer Entertainment International, said at the company’s E3 press conference that PlayStation users will be able to sign up for individual channels in July, meaning they can say “no thanks” to programming tiers that tend to drive pay TV subscribers bananas. “We will begin offering a la carte channels nationwide,” House said, “and will be the first paid TV service to allow users to subscribe to individual channels without the purchase of a multi-channel bundle.”
It remains to be seen whether any of the most popular cable channels such as ESPN, USA, TNT, or FX will be offered a la carte. It would be a major change if they are. Their parent companies insist that cable and satellite distributors offer them and other services as part of the expanded basic bundle — which is why subscribers end up paying for lots of channels that they don’t watch.
Sony had been offering bundles of programming — including Showtime and Fox Soccer Channel — starting at 50 bucks a month. It also offers local programming from broadcast network O&Os in the served markets along with cable fare from CBS, Time Warner, Viacom, Discovery, Fox, NBC Universal, AMC and Scripps Networks.
House also announced what he called an exclusive channel from Machinima, the online video network that counts Warner Bros among its investors. The channel for now is part of Vue Elite multi-channel programming package. “More than half of Machinima’s U.S. audience owns a PlayStation platform,” Machinima CEO Chad Gutstein said in a statement. “That’s why we are thrilled that the launch partner for Machinima’s premium service will be PlayStation Vue.”
As for the western expansion of PlayStation Vue — which seeks a middle ground between pricey cable/satellite packages and cheaper, thinner alternatives like Dish’s Sling TV — it rolled out in February out only in NYC, Chicago and Philadelphia.