PlayStation Vue Starts at $50 per Month, Wants to Replace Cable TV

Sony's online TV offering comes in three bundles and starts at $50 per month, but will this make you want to drop cable?

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Sony announced the PlayStation Vue television streaming service last year, and on Wednesday the corporation revealed a lot more about the price, rollout plan, and TV channels on offer.

Vue is available starting now , but only in a few cities. Starting with New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, the service will enter other markets at a later, unspecified date. In an interview with GameSpot, Sony Network Entertainment vice president Eric Lempel said that he wants to get the service running in the rest of the US soon.

"We want to get to a lot of cities very quickly. This is the most complex thing we've launched since starting the network," he said.

"Everything we've launched usually comes out by country. In this case, because we felt local programming was important to the users, we wanted to make sure we got those deals signed so that it involves the local affiliates individually. But this year, we will be delivering a lot of new markets, so it's something that will evolve very quickly."

The timing of the Vue announcement is likely tied to the recent government approval of Net Neutrality. Without that legislation in place, a company like Comcast could have potentially throttled the bandwidth of a competing provider like Vue.

Lempel calls Sony's service "a complete TV offering. It's live TV; it's catch-up TV; it's a DVR in the cloud. So it gives our users everything that we think they want."

But the price is what most users will find surprising. Microsoft opened up the Xbox One's TV offering through Sling TV this week with pricing that starts at $20 per month. But PlayStation Vue runs from $50 to $70 depending on the bundle. Sony believes it isn't competing with Netflix or Hulu; but instead cable providers such as Comcast.

Here's a rundown of the full channel offering and current prices for Vue:

$50 Option -- Access

  • 50 channels total
  • Broadcast: CBS, CBS Plus, Cozi TV, Exitos, FOX, MyNetwork, NBC, Telemundo
  • Network: Animal Planet, BET, Bravo, Cartoon/Adult Swim, CBS, CMT, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, Destination America, Discovery Channel, Discovery Family, DIY, E!, Esquire, Food Network, Fox Business, Fox News Networks, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2, FX, FXX, HGTV, HLN, Investigation Discovery, MSNBC, MTV, MTV2, Nat Geo, NBC Sports Network, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, OWN, Oxygen, Science, Spike, Syfy, TBS, TLC, TNT, TruTV, Travel Channel, TV Land, USA Network, VH1.
  • AMC networks will be available in April (including AMC, IFC, Sundance, and WE tv)

$60 Option -- Core

  • All of the $50 channels plus:
  • Network: BTN, Golf Channel, TCM
  • New York Only: YES Network
  • Philadelphia Only: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
  • Chicago Only: Comcast SportsNet Chicago

$70 Option -- Elite

  • All of the above channels plus:
  • Network: American Heroes, BET Gospel, Boomerang, Centric, Chiller, Cloo, CMT Pure Country, CNBC World, Cooking Channel, Discovery Fit & Health, FOX College Sports Atlantic, FOX College Sports Central, FOX College Sports Pacific, FXM, LOGO, MTV Hits, MTV Jams, mtvU, Nat Geo Wild, PALLADIA, Sprout, TeenNick, Universal, Velocity, VH1 Classic, VH1 Soul.

Why bundle options when so many other networks, like HBO Now, seem to be embracing a la carte? Lempel said, "We looked at that ... But you'll quickly see that if you choose a few of those, you'll be at a price much higher than our tiers. In our research and talking to consumers, they really did want that bundled offering. ... I think we'll continue to see this space evolve and similar to what we've done in the past, this product will evolve. We're adding new networks on a regular basis; we're in talks with a lot people."

You won't need a PlayStation Plus or any other subscription to access Vue, but you don't get a discount for subscribing to Sony's other PlayStation services either. But Lempel offered up some hope: "In the future we can always explore ways to bring more benefits to users of PlayStation Plus or other services."

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One immediate benefit is that Vue will be accessible simultaneously across up to three different devices "at no additional charge." However, that only includes one PS4 at a time.

Since Vue includes live TV, there will be commercials in the recorded and live programming, but videos that you favorite or record to DVR will let you fast forward and pause after recording.

Lempel added that, "On the catch-up side [the programs made available after airing that you can watch without actively setting up the DVR], it's up to the networks. We want to make this as easy and flexible as possible, but through our deals, we have to comply with what they ask us to do with their content."

After tagging a show using Vue's DVR, you'll have access to all episodes of that show for 28 days. And since the DVR is cloud-based, there are no storage restrictions or conflicts with recording multiple programs in the same time slot. If you don't schedule a show using the Vue DVR, you'll still have access to the last three days of programming to catch up.

"So in time, if we feel there's something interesting that a lot of our users want, that can come into this."

Shows won't have additional ads, but Lempel said, "There could be different ads. We do have the ability to dynamically insert advertising in certain places." And for local affiliates, "You'll probably continue to get a lot of the local ads for some of the merchants from that region. And any sort of open spaces, or through our deals, if we have the ability to insert ads, we have the ability to sell that space or insert our own programming."

As the internet breaks down its barriers, is Sony looking at expanding the international content offerings to users? And not just the BBC, but NHK in Japan or Korea's KBS?

"Initially, we're going out with this easy-to-understand offering of select channels that our users have identified as important," Lempel explained, "but anything can be added to this. So, in time, if we feel there's something interesting that a lot of our users want, that can come into this. We have the ability to do it technically ... So anything is possible for the future."

Full disclosure: GameSpot is owned by CBS Interactive.

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