Much was made of Microsoft's attempts to position the Xbox One as an all-in-one entertainment box — before fan backlash prompted a shift back towards the core gaming audience. However, now it seems that it's Sony that is looking to expand the scope of its console interests; earlier today, the company unveiled a new television service called PlayStation Vue.
Turning your PlayStation console into the equivalent of a cable box, PlayStation Vue offers users a mixture of live and on demand television streamed via your internet connection. A lineup of 75 channels are planned for launch, ranging from major networks like NBC, Fox and CBS to more specialty fare like MTV, Bravo and Comedy Central.
However, there are holdouts that prevent PlayStation Vue from being the total package, with Disney and Time Warner being the most prominent. The absence of Disney might prove particularly costly to the service; the company owns ESPN, whose sports coverage would likely be a major selling point to many prospective subscribers.
As well as live content, users will also be able to save shows to a cloud-based DVR system with no storage restrictions or scheduling conflicts. In addition, popular programs from the previous three days will be available without the need to record them manually.
While initially the service will be limited to PlayStation consoles — both PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 — there are plans to go device agnostic once the service is up and running. This means that a subscription will allow you to access content from your laptop or tablet wherever you are.
It's interesting to see Sony use the PlayStation brand for this venture, although its nothing new — from the CD player capabilities of the original PlayStation onward, Sony's consoles have always had aspirations of being a media hub. Plans for original programming like the upcoming Powers clued us in to the fact that Sony does want PlayStation 4 to be an entertainment platform; although they've been quieter about it than Microsoft, they're no less committed.
Sony hasn't yet announced support for their recently released PlayStation TV, which is confusing considering how well suited the service seems for that device. Given that the plan is to use the PlayStation brand as a start, but expand beyond a gaming audience at a later date, giving consumers the option of using PlayStation Vue on a low-cost set-top box like the PlayStation TV would seem like a given — perhaps it is in the works for the future.
The PlayStation Vue service sounds promising from this early information, but it will live or die based on the content available and its pricing. If Sony can indeed woo Disney, and offer the commitment-free competitively priced product that they're claiming, then this could well be huge for the PlayStation brand.
An invite-only beta preview for PlayStation Vue is planned for later this month. A wider rollout will begin afterwards, starting in New York before expanding to Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.