Sony’s new cloud-based TV streaming service, PlayStation Vue, has set its sights on cable and satellite TV. The media and hardware giant announced the long-anticipated service today, which kicks off an invitational beta in November 2014, leading up to a commercial release in early 2015.
Sitting somewhere between TiVo and Hulu, PlayStation Vue provides one seamless interface for both live television programming and recorded, streaming content. Popular programming from the last three days will remain available to view at any time without needing to set anything up. Tagged favorite shows will be automatically recorded without storage restrictions or scheduling conflicts for 28 days after airing.
During the beta, the service will offer around 75 channels per market, including both national and local broadcasters. This includes local affiliates of major networks such as CBS, Fox, and NBC, and also national, cable-based networks such as FX, Comedy Central, and Discovery Channel. The regional specificity will also allow users to watch local sports through services like Fox Sports and Prime Ticket.
PlayStation Vue starts rolling out to select American cities this month, via invitations sent to PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 owners. It’s coming to iPad and devices from both Sony and other manufacturers soon after that, with commercial availability targeted for the first quarter of 2015.
A large part of Sony’s strategy to take down the cable industry behemoth is transparent pricing and only month-to-month commitments, rather than annual subscriptions that can be difficult and inflexible. The exact pricing details are not yet available, but Sony promises transparent, competitive rates without any additional fees or charges. Rumors earlier in 2014 pointed towards higher monthly rates than initially anticipated — on the order of $80 per month, which puts it in the same price category as most cable services — but Sony has not confirmed any figures, and negotiations are presumably ongoing.
Internet-based services like Netflix, Amazon, and Yahoo have all taken a stand against traditional broadcasting models recently by investing in original programming. The battle for audiences is playing out legally through the FCC and the issue of net neutrality, as traditional cable providers largely still hold monopolies over the Internet services upon which these upstart competitors rely. Sony is uniquely positioned in this battle as a conglomerate that already has substantial stakes in media hardware, digital platforms, and content production, whereas the other companies are generally coming from one of these areas and moving into the others.
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The industries of mass content distribution have been sluggish to adapt to the rapidly evolving mediascape of the 21st century. Internet natives and upstarts have pecked away at the establishment over the last few years, but a media giant like Sony throwing its hat into the ring marks a substantial shift in that struggle. The inertia of decades of capital invested in broadcast media can only resist for so long the Internet’s growing gravitational pull to unite all media into one, fluid ecology.