Sony Corp. said its PlayStation Vue streaming television service is available starting today for consumers in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia at prices ranging from $49.99 to $69.99.
The company’s long-awaited online version of pay TV, featuring more than 85 live channels, doesn’t significantly undercut prices currently offered by traditional cable and satellite TV providers.Bloomberg News
Time Warner Cable, for instance, offers a 200-channel package at a one-year promotional rate of $49.99.
Plus, Vue customers will have to pay for Internet access from their local cable or phone company in order to stream the service, tacking on an additional cost. Sony recommends speeds of 3-5 megabits per second for a single stream and 25 mbps for three or four streams. Comcast Corp.’s 25 mbps standalone Internet costs $30 for the first 12 months in some markets, but goes up to $67 after the promotion expires.
The price of Sony’s offering shows just how complicated the math is getting for consumers who want to cut the cord and no longer subscribe to a traditional pay TV package. And it’s only one of many emerging options for Internet TV. Apple Inc. is working on an online service with some 25 channels, expected to cost $25 to $35 a month, according to people familiar with the plans. Meanwhile, Dish Network Corp. is selling Sling TV at $20 with about 20 live channels, and networks including HBO, Showtime and CBS are offering their own stand-alone streaming subscriptions.
Still, Sony believes it has some clear advantages over traditional pay TV providers. Customers won’t have to sign long-term contracts or pay penalties for cancelling, and Sony charges no additional fees beyond the sticker price for access to a robust cloud-based digital video recorder and concurrent streaming capability on up to three outlets in the home. Cable operators tend to charge additional fees for each set-top box and digital video recorder, which can add at least another $20 to the monthly bill.
Sony’s cheapest $49.99 tier offers more than 50 channels, including local broadcast stations and popular cable channels like Food Network, TNT, Fox News, Discovery and USA. The “core” tier at $59.99 additionally gives access to regional sports networks and the Big Ten Network, and the “elite” $69.99 package adds a smattering of smaller channels like Palladia, Chiller and Cloo. Vue customers will also be able to watch Sony’s original series programmed for PlayStation users, the first of which is the supernatural drama “Powers.”
Still missing for now are Walt Disney Co.’s channels like ABC and ESPN. Sony also doesn’t have HBO, Showtime and other premium channels typically offered as add-ons to cable packages.
Sony Vice President Dwayne Benefield, the head of Vue, says he’s talking to other content companies to bring them on board. His pitch: PlayStation is a top device through which customers watch subscription streaming services. And with recent TV ratings declines largely attributed to Netflix-like services taking share, TV channels “need to be where the customer is.”
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