Sony Promises à la Carte TV

Sony wants to deliver the holy grail of paid television.

On the heels of expanding its existing PlayStation Vue TV service to Greater Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) announced at the annual E3 gaming convention that it will offer pay-TV channels on an à la carte basis to PlayStation customers beginning in July.

The first available à la carte channel will be Showtime, selling for an $11 monthly fee. Fox Soccer Plus will follow in August for $15 per month, and gamer channel Machinima will debut later in the summer for $4 per month. Each station will be available for a $2 monthly discount to PlayStation Plus members.

The à la carte service sounds novel enough until you consider that Sony is only following in the path that programmers have already set. Showtime has previously announced that it will make its programming available on a standalone basis over the web. CBS already offers its CBS All Access digital package online for $6 per month. And HBO is rapidly expanding the availability of its $15-per-month HBO Now service to anyone with an Internet connection. (See Showtime Joins OTT Parade .)

There's also the issue of cost. Creating a bundle of individual channels adds up quickly when those channels start producing Netflix-like price tags. In contrast, Sling TV from Dish offers a compelling line-up of content from multiple programmers for only $20 per month. Add-on content packs for Sling TV are available for an additional monthly fee of $5 each. (See Sony & Dish – Two Sides of a Coin.)

Want to know more about the impact of web services on the pay-TV sector? Check out our dedicated OTT services content channel here on Light Reading.

As for Sony's bundled PlayStation Vue service -- which was already launched in Chicago, New York and Philadelphia -- it suffers from pricing issues as well. While the over-the-top offering includes most of the broadcast networks and numerous cable channels, it costs anywhere between $50 and $70 per month. Those numbers start to get close to a traditional cable TV package, and the PlayStation Vue service is still missing channels owned by Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) including ABC and ESPN. (See Sony Goes OTT With PlayStation Vue.)

The promise of online and à la carte TV has always been greater choice and flexibility. Those benefits are still on the table, but they won't come cheap.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

jabailo 6/18/2015 | 1:45:17 PM
Re: Netflix stands alone For people brought up on cable, they may want to have 20 channels.

But what about a "channel" (Netflix) with near infinite content?

Also, I don't think a channel recognizes the interactive power of the web.  As I mention, Netflix can create, manufacture and tailor content to its audience.    With several binge-able shows on Netflix, they scoop up a significant amount of viewing hours.

While there can of course be competition, I feel like it has to be on the level of what Netflix, and currenly only Netflix, is doing.

kq4ym 6/17/2015 | 10:10:27 AM
Re: Netflix stands alone It would seem at some future date, the ala carte idea will actually be good for providers and viewers. It's still a pricey game as pointed out. I'd love to order say 10 channels of my favorites and pay a reasonable monthly fee. But as it stands now the total cost would still be in the range of current cable charges. And who's to say Netflix won't be among the providers offering channel choices sometime soon?
DHagar 6/16/2015 | 9:59:24 PM
Re: Netflix stands alone jabailo, good points.  Maybe they will set the stage for the industry to catch on to the real opportunity of delivering what the public wants.  Let's hope they succeed!
jabailo 6/16/2015 | 1:48:58 PM
Netflix stands alone The success of Netflix seems to be not only breaking entirely free from the "channel" idea to on demand shows, as well as Price Fixe, but now, essentially following a managed-Kickstarter mode for new content.  Netflix charges its monthly fee, and with that, it creates new programming that the audience wants to see.

As someone who has rifled through all the old movies I ever wanted to see, and who is now down to watching 1950s gangster epics and little known sleepers from the 1970s, I'm much more interested in modern content.   Netflix is delivering that with shows like Sense 8.

When you think about it, Netflix is the one company that is following the Content is King model.  If you reduce networks to clouds, that you can rent, Uber style. And you reduce payment to a web service.  And you reduce membership to a social network login.  Well, then at some point you have to start producing something to earn those dollars you ask for each month.  Just "putting it all together" or being a portal or gateway is no longer sufficient to justify high value, or secure high returns.


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