Sony Planning Online Pay-TV Service, Original Programming For PlayStation

Before they get into the pay-TV business, can Sony please give us an option to turn off that obnoxious light? One that doesn't involve electrical tape? (cookedphotos)

Before they get into the pay-TV business, can Sony please give us an option to turn off that obnoxious light? One that doesn’t involve electrical tape? (cookedphotos)

When the most recent generation of gaming consoles was unveiled, it was Microsoft’s Xbox One that most loudly claimed it wanted to be an all-in-one media center for users, while Sony’s PlayStation 4 seemed intent on being a next-gen gaming device that, like the previous generation, also allowed you to access video feeds through its store and various streaming services. But a new report says that Sony is working on something that would land it squarely in competition with Netflix, Amazon, and cable/satellite operators.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sony is once again working on a pay-TV service that would offer a slate of live TV channels to subscribers, presumably through their PlayStation consoles. It’s been down this road before to no avail, but the Journal says Sony is indeed negotiating with media companies for the right to stream their channels live online.

If Sony could get it to work — and if the cable operators who control the data-to-the-home pipelines (and who are no longer constrained by net neutrality rules) don’t block or throttle access to the service — it could be a huge coup in terms of opening up competition to existing cable monopolies. Those who have ditched cable and gone online-only for their video entertainment have very little, if any, access to live TV. Even ABC, which has made parts of its live feed available online in real-time, requires viewers of the live stream to log in via their cable provider, meaning those people without cable are locked out.

The big question would be the cost and variety of channels made available to users. If Sony charges a premium for a service that could be acquired from a cable provider for less money, or if the channel lineup is just as bloated as existing cable menus with stations no one watches, it may be a tough sell to cord-cutting consumers who seek a high level of customization in their entertainment options.

Without a doubt, the future of live TV is online. All the major cable and satellite providers have been making more and more live TV available to users, and Dish is reportedly working on an over-the-top online TV system that would be separate from its satellite offerings.

In addition to the planned pay-TV service, and perhaps as part of it, Sony is working on its first piece of original programming made specifically for PlayStation users.

According to the Journal, it’s a one-hour supernatural drama series, “Powers.” It will be produced by Sony Pictures Television and would be made available in some form to users of the PlayStation Network. At this point it’s not known if it would be free to all PSN users, or free to premium PlayStation Plus members with regular PSN users having to pay for access.

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton says Powers, a mix of superhero fantasy, police procedurals and crime noir, “overlays extremely well with the demographics of the PlayStation.”

Or it could be a disaster that panders to a huge corporation’s notion of what gamers want to watch. Won’t know until we see it.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.