Sony today announced that it will soon shut down PlayStation Vue, its streaming TV service that served as a lighter alternative to traditional cable for live-TV viewers. The company’s short blog post on the subject says that Vue will continue to operate until January 30, 2020, but that it will become inoperable after that date.
“Unfortunately, the highly competitive Pay TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected,” Sony wrote. “Because of this, we have decided to remain focused on our core gaming business.”
Sony will continue to offer movies and TV episodes for purchase on-demand through the PlayStation Store, however; this closure only affects the live-TV service, which licensed channels traditionally found on cable for streaming in an interface that was available on PlayStation game consoles, Roku, Apple TV, and other platforms.
PlayStation Vue was the first major service of its type when it launched in the United States in 2015. It was followed by offerings from Hulu, YouTube, and others that sought to provide the basic live-TV cable experience streaming over the Internet with more modern interfaces and built-in features like cloud-based DVR and without long-term contract commitments. However, despite its early start, the Vue service lagged competitors in terms of subscribers. And since Sony had less leverage in the entertainment business than say, Disney (which is the majority owner of Hulu), it reportedly found itself paying more than competitors for already extremely pricy content deals with TV networks.
Just a few days ago, a report claimed that Sony had sought to find a buyer for the Vue service, which has never been profitable. Any buyer would have acquired Vue’s subscribers and technology but not necessarily its content agreements, which are difficult to secure. The report indicated that Sony was struggling to find an interested party.
The effort to reimagine the cable bundle for streaming devices has been slow to gain traction even for some of the other top players that have outperformed Vue. As we noted in our previous article on the company’s efforts to sell Vue, the wind seems to be strongly behind a channel-based, a la carte ecosystem of low-priced ($6-15/month) streaming services dedicated primarily to producing and distributing original content rather than licensing entire channels or big content packages from other companies.
Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, CBS, and others have already found varying levels of success with the strategy, and major new competitors like Disney and Comcast/NBC Universal are poised to enter the field soon, as well. Cable subscriptions are also declining, albeit slowly; consumers seem to be voting with their dollars for a different model than traditional live-TV bundles, and Sony seems to have learned that the hard way.