While Dish may be ushering in a new era of skinnier TV bundles with Sling TV, it looks like Sony is headed completely in the opposite direction. (See Sling TV – Like Pay-TV, but Skinnier.)
According to an early user report, Sony Corp. of America 's PlayStation Vue service appears to include not only a heavy bundle of linear TV channels -- including stations from CBS, NBC, Fox, Viacom, Scripps and Discovery -- but also a slick user interface and comprehensive cloud DVR and video-on-demand features. An anonymous beta tester told GigaOM's Janko Roettgers that the UI is "very snappy" and easy to use. The service also lets users catch up on shows that have aired in the last three days, save favorites to a cloud DVR for up to four weeks and add programs to a list of "my shows" that opens up easy access to previously aired episodes on-demand.
Those features come at a price, however. And while Sony hasn't announced a fee yet, programming costs in the industry are high, and a report last fall suggested that the service would fall somewhere between $60 and $80 per month. (See Sony Goes OTT With PlayStation Vue.)
Unlike Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), Sony is going after the higher end of the pay-TV market. Right now it's missing critical content from the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS)-owned networks (including ABC and ESPN), and Sony will likely have to correct that flaw if it's going to compete with cable companies. Performance may also be an issue. If there's too much buffering, for example, customers will have a hard time swallowing the hefty monthly fee.
On the other hand, Sony is offering some nice trade-offs. In addition to cloud-based multiscreen features, the company has said its new online video service will be contract-free. That's a pretty big deal given that traditional pay-TV operators like to lock down subscribers with one- and two-year contracts.
In its own way, PlayStation Vue may end up being as disruptive as Sling TV. If the service is executed well, Sony will prove that there's no longer a significant entry barrier for consumer electronics companies that want to get into the pay-TV service game. With enough scale, anyone can join the party. And unlike cable providers, online video companies won't be restricted (at least within the US) to a particular geographic region.
Competition is heating up. Stay tuned for more.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading