Sony PlayStation Vue Launches ‘Slim’ TV Bundles Nationwide Without Live Broadcast Channels – Variety
Now that Sonyâ€™s PlayStation Vue has added ESPN, the company is pitching the over-the-top TV service everywhere in the U.S. â€” although in mostÂ markets, it will lack live local TV programming today.
The new PlayStation Vue Slim packages stand to raiseÂ the competitive stakesÂ in the OTT space, giving disgruntledÂ cable and satellite TV customers a new option for pay television. Sonyâ€™s national OTT play will square off againstÂ Dish Networkâ€™s Sling TV, which starts at $20 per month, and comes asÂ AT&T gears up to launchÂ DirecTVÂ broadband-delivered pay-TV packages in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The Slim version of PlayStation Vue, starting at $30 per month, will be available inÂ 203 TV designated market areas in the U.S.Â While that wonâ€™t have live local TV, it will provide on-demand next-day access to primetime content fromÂ ABC, NBCÂ andÂ Fox; programming from CBSÂ is not available at launch, but willÂ be added in â€œselect TV marketsâ€ at a later date.
â€œWe were intent on bringing this valuable service to broader reach as quickly as possible,â€ said Dwayne Benefield, VP and head of PlayStation Vue for Sony Network Entertainment International.Â â€œWith the assortment of channels we have now, we feel we are strong alternative to current pay-TV providers and new entrants.â€
The full PlayStation Vue service with local TV stations is available only in seven markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco and Miami. Sony will continue to negotiate with broadcastersÂ to bring on local live channels to the service, Benefield said.
â€œFor us, itâ€™s about having the right content for what we feel is our target demographic,â€ Benefield said. â€œWe felt when we launched, the live local broadcasts were paramount, but our customers have been clamoring for these packages â€“ most of the customer service calls that were coming in were, â€˜Hey, when is it coming to my city?’â€
Sony added ESPN and otherÂ Disney channels earlier this month to the OTT package, nearly a year after PlayStation first bowed.
The PlayStation Vue Slim packages are each priced $10 less than the â€œfullâ€ versions that include broadcast stations. Benefield noted that doesnâ€™t mean Sony is paying $10 per month in retransmission fees in those seven markets: â€œWhat we are providing to consumers is a tremendous value â€“ thereâ€™s not a direct correlation to our cost base,â€ he said.
The new plans are Access Slim ($29.99 per month), with about 55 channels, including live cable TV, movies and sports channels;Â Core Slim ($34.99 per month), with 70 channels, including all the channels from Access Slim with the addition of live national and regional sports networks from Fox and Comcast;Â andÂ Elite Slim ($44.99 per month) featuring all the channels from Core Slim with the addition of top movie and entertainment channels.
Sonyâ€™s national TV service provides the same features as the regular PlayStation Vue. Those include â€œcloud DVR,â€ allowing thousands of hours of programming to be recorded â€” 10 times the storage of any DVR in the market today, according to the company â€” and the ability to watch up to five simultaneous streams (whereas Sling TV is limited to one). Sony also touts the PS Vue interface, search and discovery tools, and the ability to watch popular shows within three days of live airing.
PlayStation Vue customers watch more than five hours of TV and video per day, which tops the average television consumption in theÂ 18-34 demo, according toÂ Benefield. Its target users â€œwant a wide assortment of pay TV channels,â€ he said, disputing the notion that thereâ€™s a preference among millennials for â€œskinnyâ€ bundles.Â The company is not disclosing the number of subscribers it has for the service.
PlayStation Vue is accessible through PlayStation 4, PS3, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, as well as iPad and iPhone through the PlayStation Vue mobile app. Google Chromecast is also supported via compatible iOS devices.
Current network programmers include AMC Networks, CBS, Discovery Communications, Disney/ABC Television Group, ESPN, Fox, NBCUniversal, Scripps Networks Interactive, Turner Broadcasting and Viacom. Standalone network channels, including Showtime,Â Machinima and Fox Soccer Plus, are also available to users nationwide as a la carte offerings.
In addition, the PlayStation Vue service includes access toÂ 60-plus TV Everywhere mobile apps andÂ websites from programming partners.
Sony began running national TV ads promoting the new bundles on Sunday, with radio and online ads to roll out this week as well.
Several years ago, when Sony was in the planning stages for the pay-TV offering, execs had concerns about network neutrality â€” and the company was seeking assurances that broadband Internet service providers wouldnâ€™t throttle or otherwise discriminate against OTT services. At this point, Benefield said, â€œWe feel comfortable that there are regulatory and competitive factors in placeâ€ that make it a non-issue.
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