Sony hopes that its PlayStation Vue cloud TV service will usher in a new way of watching live television and video content. It’s an ambitious (and expensive) move by the company, which agreed to pay high programming fees to the networks in hopes of catering to an audience of so-called "cord-shavers" or those who'd rather buy their TV through their PS4 than Comcast or DirecTV. And it has a number of partners backing its service, including Fox, NBCUniversal, CBS, Discovery Communications, Scripps and Viacom.
These are the kinds of content deals Apple has been seeking as part of a revamped Apple TV, a set-top box or even a full-fledged television set. Apple has dropped enough hints; now the world expects Cupertino to revolutionize the television-watching experience. Unfortunately for Apple, its revolutionary television product has yet to materialize. So why was Sony able to succeed in securing content deals where Apple has found resistance?
“It may be that Apple and Sony are coming at this from a different angle,” Jeff Kagan, independent industry analyst, said. “Apple wants to control everything.” Sony may have approached it from a friendlier negotiation position, Kagan speculated.
With Apple’s early success with securing HBOGo, WatchESPN in 2013 and a number of content providers, it looked like it was positioning itself to become the go-to content source for cord cutters, or families and individuals that choose to go without a television subscription in favor of online content. But it reportedly backed off that approach, choosing to negotiate with cable providers such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable to develop content deals in February.
Months following the rumored talks, negotiations stalled between Apple and its content and cable partners, leaving Apple with an Apple TV that hasn’t seen a replacement for over two-and-a-half years. Unnamed Apple employees cited cable companies as “dragging their heels” as one of many reasons for the stall, according to the Information. In lieu of a new Apple TV, the media center’s library has since grown to over 50 channels, though many of the channels are tied to an active cable subscription, or separate service.
Despite Sony beating Apple to the market with its new service, it hasn’t necessarily cornered the streaming television market. Noticeably absent from its lineup is content from Walt Disney’s ESPN and ABC, along with Time Warner’s HBO, TNT and CNN. Though pricing has yet to be disclosed for the service, which will begin rolling out as an invite-only trial in New York later this month for PS4 and PS3 owners, Sony claims that it will have a “fair and competitive price that is transparent with no hidden fees or charges.”
While Apple has yet to unveil its highly rumored and anticipated Apple TV revision, CEO Tim Cook teased at the company's interest in television content in September during an interview with Charlie Rose:
"TV is one that we continue to have great interest in. I choose my words carefully there, but TV is one of those things that if we are really honest it's stuck back in the '70s. Think about how much your life has changed, and all the things around you that have changed, and yet TV, when you go into your living room, it almost feels like you're rewinding the clock and you're in a time capsule and you're going backwards. The interface is terrible, I mean it's awful."