Is big media coming around on Internet TV? Sony shakes hands with Viacom

In the race to secure content rights for an over-the-top (OTT) TV service, Sony hasn’t exactly been considered one of the front runners. In our own coverage of the topic, we focused on Intel, Google, Apple, Amazon and Samsung as the industry leaders in the charge to challenge cable and satellite operators as providers of pay-TV. But a recent report from the Wall Street journal indicates Sony has been diligently working well under the radar and has apparently reached a “preliminary deal” with Viacom, a media outlet which counts Showtime, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and Spike TV among its assets. The deal would allow Sony to offer TV content via its HDTVs and the PlayStation 4.

According to the report, the fine details are not yet worked out. But if Sony does indeed have an agreement in principle with Viacom, it would be the first significant content deal to be made among the big players who are aiming to stream cable channels over the Internet alongside on-demand and proprietary content. Whether Viacom’s channels will be available a la carte or as part of a bundled package remains to be seen, but considering how wary big media companies have been to license their content outside of established deals with cable operators, an a la carte TV option still looks unlikely.

This latest news is encouraging for fans of an OTT content delivery model, though. Viacom, like most companies that own highly-popular networks, have long-standing and profitable arrangements with cable companies, making the choice to bypass them a dicey one. But if Viacom is willing to play ball, could Disney and Time Warner be close behind? And if Sony can make such a deal happen, then it stands to reason Apple, Intel, Google and others can as well.

Presently, Sony is expected to launch its Internet TV service by the end of the year, which could coincide nicely with the launch of the PS4. Access to the service will require an Internet-connected Sony smart TV or Playstation console to start, with the introduction of a stand-alone set-top box in the near term very likely.

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