Streaming TV services are running into the exact same obstacles as cable TV providers. And Sony just encountered a huge one. The company has announced in an Election Day blog post that as of November 11th at 12:01AM, PlayStation Vue customers will no longer be able to watch any of Viacom’s networks, which include Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, VH1, Spike, and others. That’s just three days away, so this announcement is incredibly abrupt and very likely to anger customers.
“At PlayStation, we always strive to provide the best value and service for our fans,” said Dwayne Benefield, who heads up Vue. “As part of our ongoing evaluation of the PlayStation Vue offering, we have determined that removing the bundle of channels from Viacom is the best way for us to continue to offer the most compelling value to our fans.”
Translated from boring corporate speak, Sony is saying that keeping Viacom’s channels as part of PlayStation Vue would result in more expensive monthly pricing; as of now, Vue’s cheapest “Access” package (which features the Viacom lineup) costs $39.99 per month. The rest of the Access package is listed below — and yeah, removing all-things-Viacom results in a pretty severe gutting of the deal.
Sony’s blog post attempts to counter the bad news with new channel announcements (BBC America and NBA TV tomorrow, VICE and more local broadcast CBS / Fox stations “soon”) and by reminding users that Vue requires no contract or commitments.
But when your entire service can take a hit like this with such little warning, well, that’s going to shake the confidence of some existing Vue customers and keep others firmly rooted in cable-land — at least for now.
While the relationship between Sony and Viacom seems to have suddenly soured, the latter company is supporting AT&T’s DirecTV Now streaming service and is in discussions with Google for its own live TV offering. Hulu is also expected to launch a live, linear TV service within the next few months. All of those things together means that both PlayStation Vue and its original rival, Dish’s Sling TV, are about to face major competition.
Separate from this, Vue has made some positive advances in recent weeks, expanding its platform availability to include PC, Mac, and Android TV. It’s now on enough devices that the “PlayStation” branding feels a little off, but clearly Sony’s got bigger challenges to worry about.