PlayStation has revealed the first details of its upcoming streaming TV service. It will include about 75 channels and features live broadcasts, popular content will be available on-demand for 3 days, and a cloud-based DVR where content can be stored for 28 days. It will initially be available on the PS3 and PS4 before rolling out to the iPad and other devices. See the full press release. The service is missing a few key channels (ESPN, ABC, Disney, AMC, TNT, CNN) and no pricing info has been released. It is essentially a cable TV bundle (minus a few channels) delivered over the internet to devices consumers already own. Yet it still feels like the future of cable TV to me.
Sign-up and cancelation
This service should be incredibly easy to sign up for and begin using compared to cable TV. No scheduling an appointment, waiting around for hours, installation fees, or new equipment to hook up and learn how to use. Vue will be another app on the PlayStation or iPad, just like Netflix or Hulu. They could even offer free trials if they wanted to. There are no contracts so you can cancel at any time, which Sony pledges to make an easy process. There won't even be any equipment to return. This should break down the barriers for customers wanting to try the service or switch to competitive services.
It's about time the TV interface gets a makeover. Time will tell, but it looks like Sony is moving in the right direction. Vue will group your favorite channels and shows on the startup screen for easy access. There won't be any channel numbers to memorize. Hopefully no more lists of channels that you may or may not receive, terrible on-demand menus, and remotes with hundreds of buttons.
Live vs time-shifted content
The service provides access to about 75 live streaming channels, but recognizes that many viewers prefer to watch time-shifted content. Popular content will be available on-demand for 3 days without any need to schedule DVR recordings. A cloud-based DVR is also included in the service, but content can only be stored for 28 days due to agreements with the TV networks.
It would be nice if the on-demand content was available much longer essentially making the DVR useless. This should still be an improvement over the cable companies' terrible on-demand user interfaces. A cloud-based DVR is another welcome addition, no word on storage limits though. Hopefully Sony can work with the TV networks on these issues for a better user experience in the future.
TV as an app
I like that the service will essentially be another app on existing hardware. No need for an extra box hooked up to the TV or clunky remote. Hopefully the user interface is similar across devices so there's no learning curve when moving from a PS4 to an iPad.
One thing to note is that some shows won't be available on mobile devices. I believe this is at least partly due to existing agreements the TV networks have in place with cable companies and other video services.
Competition for the regional monopoly
Vue will be delivered over the internet, so anyone in the country with broadband internet is a potential customer. This may bring competition to cable providers who have a regional monopoly or near-monopoly. If Sony is able to deliver this product at a competitive price (and they should since it doesn't include the highest-cost cable channel - ESPN), it may finally push the cable and telco companies into actually competing for business.
This feels like the future of TV to me: an app that delivers live and on-demand content in a modern interface across all of my devices. Even better that it is available without a contract and can be canceled at any time. I can't wait to try it out. Hopefully lots of people do and it pushes the cable industry forward.