Sony announces Playstation Vue Internet TV service

The beta starts this month and there'll be 75 channels available, including CBS, FOX and NBC

Am I the only one who thinks Sony and Microsoft are headed in opposite directions with their gaming consoles? I feel like Microsoft keeps simplifying the Xbox universe, focusing on games and marginalizing TV and other content. For instance they've shut down Xbox Entertainment Studios which was supposed to be a source for on-going non-game content for Xbox Live. The Xbox One was originally pitched as a media hub for all your entertainment needs. No more. The new Xbox message is that it's all about the games.

Sony started by saying the Playstation 4 was all about the games but as time passes they seem to be branching out. For instance an original series, Powers, is scheduled to debut on the Playstation Network next month. We'll see if that leads to more original content.

But yesterday they went even farther, announcing Playstation Vue, a streaming (they call it 'cloud-based') TV service that will initially be available on the Playstation 3 and 4.

This is another of those announcements that came out of left field (for me at least) which is all the more surprising when you learn that CBS, NBC Universal, and FOX are among the partners that are on board for Vue. In all the system will have 75 channels available when the beta launches later this month.

What's important to understand is that this (apparently) isn't a Hulu replacement. Vue offers streaming of live TV. Well, let's be more precise. The press release says "the best of live TV and a robust catalog of the latest content." The implication is that you'll be able to watch shows on Vue at the same time your friends are watching them on cable. I'll be impressed if I can watch a live NFL game through the service.

In addition to live TV you'll get a 3-day window to watch "popular programming" (as the press release puts it) after it initially airs, or you can tag a show as a Favorite and watch it up to 28 days after air date. This is all done via the cloud so it won't require local hard disk space.

As mentioned, the beta starts later this month, but unfortunately only for users in New York, after which it'll spread to Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles (this kind of roll-out reinforces the idea that we'll get content from local network affiliates on the service). Playstation Vue is set to launch commercially in Q1 2015 and presumably at that time anyone in the US can get it. In addition to the PS3 and PS4 clients, an iPad app is being worked on, and eventually the service will be available on (thus far unspecified) other devices as well.

The only word about price is that it will be "fair and competitive" with no contracts. Competitive with what though? If they see Hulu and Netflix as their competition it'll be $10/month but if they see cable as their competition it could be $50-$100/month. I think it'll come down to whether Vue is pitched as a complement to cable (so you can watch TV in your gaming den or the kid's bedroom where the Playstation lives) or whether they see it as a cord-cutting service that will replace cable.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this works out and to see how much local content you can access via Vue. We've seen companies like Intel try to launch Internet TV services and fail, so I'm really curious about what Sony is going to deliver. If they could persuade ABC to come on-board then Vue might make cord-cutting more appealing, but the skeptic in me thinks if this were the case then the big networks wouldn't be involved; I mean, no one else has managed to convince them to stream their content like this. I'm expecting to find out there's some kind of catch that prevents Vue from replacing your cable subscription, but even if that's the case it could be an interesting supplemental service.

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