Can Sony put the ‘TV’ into its new Playstation TV media device?

When a potentially game-changing piece of technology is introduced at a huge event, with a modicum of fanfare, and among stiff competition for the spotlight, it can be easy to overlook its significance. Such is the case with the Sony Playstation TV, announced Monday at E3. First introduced in Japan as the Playstation Vita TV, the small $100 device is both a gaming console and media player, also capable of extending Playstation 4 content to a remote television. But that’s only part of the story. Many haven’t realized it yet, but Sony’s announcement has singlehandedly put small gaming services like Ouya, as well as huge tech titans like Apple and Amazon, on notice.

It’s not just what the Playstation TV does right now (which includes the ability to stream a massive amount of games and media content) that makes it a deceivingly dangerous weapon in Sony’s arsenal, it’s what it could do in the near future that is getting us here at DT all fired up: Sony is working on an Internet-delivered TV service, and the Playstation TV could be the Trojan horse it needs to get that service in front of a significant number of eyeballs. Let’s take a look at the facts… 

Gaming and media 

The gaming side of the coin for the Playstation TV is a no brainer. It will offer backward compatibility with Playstation Vita, PSP, and even PS1 games for access to around 1,000 titles right at launch. And if you’re a PS4 owner, it’s even more enticing, acting as an add-on component to the console to stream content to other rooms over Wi-Fi. That could potentially allow for more than just gaming, but a secondary connection to all of the PS4’s wide array of media assets.

Even on its own, though, the Playstation TV already goes way beyond gaming. While it’s no powerhouse when it comes to specs, it has the check marks in the right boxes to do some damage when stacked up to media streamers like the Apple TVAmazon Fire TV and Roku. That includes a quad-core processor,  1GB of RAM, Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections, and Bluetooth 2.1 connection. Apart from its limit to 720p/1080i resolution, it hits every target. It even allows for streaming from a PS Vita gaming device, which already offers apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube right from launch.

And let’s not forget, we’re talking about Sony here. Apart from having the industry weight to acquire all the apps the Playstation TV might need, the device will have a mainline to Sony Pictures. You know, the company that makes TV shows like Breaking Bad, The Black List, and Jeopardy, as well as movies like both Spiderman franchises, American Hustle, and 22 Jump Street, to name a very small few. All of that content is ready and waiting to be served up to the Playstation TV.

An emphasis on ‘TV’

But let’s take that ‘TV’ part in the name just a bit further, shall we? It’s no secret that Sony is one of the many conglomerates in the tech industry that has been working on a way to create its own Internet-based OTT (over the top) pay-TV service. While many have tried and failed (see Intel’s OnCue), make no mistake, Sony has as good a chance as any to move the mountains that need moving to bring live TV into your home with nothing more than a Web connection. Could the Playstation TV be another piece of the puzzle in Sony’s plan for Internet-TV domination?

In a recent interview with Re/Code, Sony American President and CEO Shawn Layden implicitly promised that Sony’s plans for its Internet TV service will come to fruition by year’s end.

“I believe we talked about bringing it to market in some capacity by the end of this year. I would say we are still on track to do that.” Layden quipped.

“We probably wouldn’t throw the switch on all devices on Day One, simply because client management is tricky. When we flip the switch, it will be on the right array of devices to have a meaningful market reaction test. Again, it’s a very complicated proposition to tie together. We hope to make more announcements in the future.”

Layden went on to talk about the content he sees coming to Sony’s proposed service, which is purported to include “the most popular live TV programs,” as well as the white whale of the genre, live sports. Given Sony’s wide-ranging reach, from its gaming consoles, its TV division, Sony Pictures, and its new Playstation Now gaming service, Sony is particularly well positioned to deliver — perhaps even more so than Apple, which is making its own play for a service by working with the fervently detested MSO, Comcast.

A broader audience

If Sony is going to roll out its Internet TV service by year’s end, it will need to acquire one thing that it doesn’t yet possess: a massive viewer base. Content providers are particularly reticent to get in bed with companies that don’t have distribution access to a ready legion of viewers. That means going beyond Sony’s gaming constituency to deliver its service to the greater viewing public en masse. And a $100 media player already in distribution could very well be the keystone that puts that all together.

Of course, all of this is pure speculation. We have no idea what Sony’s plans for its new device are, and its limit to 720p/1080i resolution is a bit of a red flag. Still, with its PS4 already up to the resolution challenges of the future, and a partner device that also stands alone, this one-two punch could be Sony’s golden ticket to completing what has up to now proved virtually impossible: a viable pay-TV service that’s off the cable/satellite grid.

Can the Playstation TV be the first device of its kind to truly live up to its name? We’ll likely find out soon enough. Here’s hoping that Sony can succeed where others have failed. 

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