Denied! Amazon claims it has no intention to get into the pay TV business

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Even as we wrote our report yesterday that Amazon was donning the proverbial shining armor and creating its own online TV service in the wake the failure of Intel’s OnCue system, it  just seemed a little too good to be true. Unfortunately, it looks like it was. Amazon representatives made a public statement late last night denying rumors of any plans the company has for creating an Internet base camp for live TV.

In an email to USA Today, Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said, “We continue to build selection for Prime Instant Video and create original shows at Amazon Studios, but we are not planning to license television channels or offer a pay-TV service.”

The statement directly rebukes the now updated report we cited from The Wall Street Journal, which claimed that Amazon was not only working on acquiring live content to add to its Prime Instant Video’s stable of on-demand programming, but also that the company had already approached three different conglomerates in an attempt to lineup licensing deals. The latter statement was cited from unnamed sources, so it is unclear at this time whether the claims hold any credence.

Further, the report underscored existing rumors that Amazon was building a set-top-box, similar to Roku, and Apple TV devices, which seemed like the perfect venue from which to display its new live content. Though it appears live content will not be a part of the equation, there was no mention from Amazon in the USA Today article as to whether reports of the streaming box are also mere myth. The proposed box wouldn’t be the first time Amazon stepped into hardware, and in the light of successes from other tech giants like Apple and Google, it makes sense that Amazon would try and cash in. 

As for online TV, there are still a few specks of hope for those looking to ditch cable and satellite packages for an online alternative. Among several new content projects Sony is preparing, the company is working on a cloud-based TV service that it says will be ready some time later this year. According to USA Today, Sony representatives claim the service will offer live sports, as well as “the most popular live TV programs.” In addition, the service will reportedly feature video-on-demand, and personalized channels in the vein of social networking, allowing users to see what friends are watching and comment.

As is clearly evidenced, for those outside of the cable and satellite realm, acquiring live TV content is a decidedly challenging affair. Content providers are loathe to attract the wrath of powerful cable conglomerates like Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon, from which they make a hefty profit, and any company that does manage to secure licensing contracts will likely pay an exorbitant sum. That said, Sony is in a prime position to get started, as it already has access to in-home programming like Breaking Bad, Justified, and The Blacklist.

With Verizon’s recent purchase of Intel’s OnCue system, which could give the communications titan a whole new venue from which to peddle its FiOS cable packages, it appears increasingly necessary for an online service to balance the cable equation with a viable alternative. We’ll have to wait and see if Sony can succeed where others have failed.


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