Recent reporting indicates that Sony may be looking to unload its streaming cable replacement service PlayStation Vue. IF reports are true the issue for sony has been programming costs. Sony is unable to get favorable deals with distributors. With 500,000 subscribers the service trails the top-rated services substantially yet like delegates in an election year Sony’s assets could be a big boost to any of the current operators in the cable replacement game. Early reports are that Fubo TV is a potential buyer for the service. But the company may suffer from the same problem Sony does. It is not part of a larger conglomerate of media assets. This is a list of potential suitors for PlayStation Vue’s customers and technology.
Apple is getting into the streaming subscription game late. It’s Apple TV+ is set to launch in November, but the company largely ignored the all you can binge boom that has defined the streaming and cord-cutting world until now. But what it has done is develop a great TV interface that integrates a number of services together on the Apple TV and recently began launching Apple apps on multiple platforms. If the reporting was true Apple wanted to develop its own live TV streaming service a couple of years ago but was rebuffed by TV executives. Swooping in to buy Vue would allow the company to grab up an asset and see if they could do better. Now that they have a TV Interface built around culling content they are in position to easily integrate the service onto multiple platforms using existing apps. It could also use its relationship with cell-phone distributors and its other products to promote the service.
Another media conglomerate with money to burn. The company is about to launch a major new entry in the streaming world with Disney+. The service will be the home to nearly the entire Disney movie library, Starwars, Marvel, National Geographic and Pixar. With plans to launch a bundle with Disney’s other properties including Hulu and ESPN+ the house of mouse is built on a large foundation already. On top of that Hulu offers a live TV service that has been growing since its launch. Knocking out a competitor in the cable replacement world and adding their customers would be a win-win for Disney. The company obviously has time to wait on the market to mature and another half a million subscribers and their information could not possibly hurt the company as it moves forward with its plans.
Yes, Amazon is in the streaming game already. In fact, it offers two on-demand streaming services. The company’s Prime Video service has been at it since the start of streaming morphing from a transactional service only to a major on-demand service with Emmy-winning programming. On top of that, the company recently launched IMDB TV, which began as IMDB Free Drive. This commercially supported service is free for Amazon Fire TV owners. Emagine what Amazon might be able to do if it latched on to a service with 500,000 subscribers right from the start and integrated it with its Fire TV interface, Amazon Channels and offered it as an add-on perk for Prime members. Jeff Bezos may be in “Danger” of no longer being the richest man in the world, but he is not going to be running out of money anytime soon. Amazon itself operated without a profit for years. It would have plenty of time to develop a service with this kind of potential. Even more, Amazon already pushes a live TV feature on its systems that integrates Pluto TV, a free service, as well as premium subscription services into a universal programming grid.
Fubo TV has already been talked about as a potential buyer for Sony’s service. The company has been operating as a cable replacement service for some time now and has a strong reputation for innovation. Fubo recently became the first cable replacement service to offer a free channel outside its interface with the launch of the Fubo Sports network which is found via the XUMO apps and integration into smart TV systems. The infusion of 500,000 subs added to its 250,000 current subscribers would bring a big boost to the service and get it much closer to the top tiers of the business. Whether subscribers would stick around is another question of course since nobody is locked into a contract. Another question is whether Fubo or any other buyer would get access to the TV deals that Sony has in place. Fubo offers over 100 channels but has never offered ESPN’s family of networks. An infusion of customers and channels would be big news for Fubo.
A far less likely suiter could be AT&T. The company is making a sport of cutting debt and killing streaming services it inherited when it merged with Time Warner. But could purchasing Vue fit into its long term plan? With HBO Max on the horizon and hopes to have 50 million subs, a one-time purchase might be worth it. Adding subscribers who are already used to paying more of a premium price for a service, which is the kind of customer that AT&T is aiming for may make for a logical pick up and be a good fit for Vue’s current customers. Losing Vue but getting free HBO could be a win-win. On top of that AT&T has time and assets in the entertainment world that Sony does not have because it already owns CNN, TNT, TBS and others meaning there would be less negotiations to worry about for costs.
CBS seems to be in an aggressive mood. It is apparently about to merge with Viacom and reunite with its cable partner after breaking up years before. If it jumps in with Viacom it will also be bringing in Pluto TV, a popular free platform. CBS owns Showtime and CBS All-Access two premium streaming services as well as co-owning the CW which also has a popular free streaming app. It could get into the game in a big way by combining the reach of CBS All-Access and PlayStation Vue with its free platforms. It could also use such a position in negotiations with reluctant cable providers in the future. Oh, you don’t want to pay up for CBS programming, we will just tell your customers to drop your service entirely and get ours. CBS All Access already acts a direct to consumer product for its chief product, CBS television, but if the same company also had essentially its own cable replacement service on top of that it would be a whole different ball game.
Sony may decide in the end to just keep on going with the service in the hopes that as the market for cord-cutting grows it will be in a better position than it is now. It would not be a terrible gamble as long as the rest of its business is going well. Vue has been lauded for its interface and viewer experience since it launched.