Sony Interactive Entertainment’s PlayStation-based cable television alternative, PlayStation Vue, will shut down for good at the end of next January. It turns out the world just wasn’t quite ready for something like Playtation Vue, according to an Official PlayStation Blog update posted today by SIE deputy president John Kodera.
“Today we are announcing that we will shut down the PlayStation Vue service on January 30, 2020,” Kodera said. “Unfortunately, the highly competitive Pay TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected. Because of this, we have decided to remain focused on our core gaming business.” Kodera was quick to remind affected subscribers that they’ll still be able to purchase films and TV shows through the PlayStation Store, as well as PlayStation’s “partnerships with top entertainment apps.”
When it launched in 2014, PlayStation Vue attempted to split the difference between traditional cable television and “over the top” (OTT) on-demand services like Hulu and Netflix. Like traditional cable, PlayStation Vue subscribers have access to their local ABC, Fox, and CBS affiliate stations, as well as a spread of cable channels such as AMC, Cartoon Network, BBC America, Discovery, Disney, and other household names, with further (increasingly esoteric) channels available to those who subscribe at higher monthly payments. Vue subscribers also have access to on-demand content (both network-related and otherwise), as well as cloud-based DVR recording capabilities.
You can also add HBO, Cinemax, or Showtime to your subscription for an additional fee, or subscribe to just one of those premium channels and nothing else, which is probably the biggest way that PlayStation Vue has been able to differentiate itself from traditional cable. Other important differences include the fact that there’s no annual contract, and that you’re paying a monthly fee to Sony Interactive Entertainment, rather than AT&T, Comcast, or Charter Spectrum. And since there’s no contract, the price you get is what you can expect to pay for the foreseeable future, rather than the traditional cable system of a palatable price for the first 12 months, followed by an absurd up-charge afterwards.
It’s an enticing offer, but PlayStation Vue struggled to make its case ironclad in a few important ways. First, it’s not that much cheaper than traditional cable, if at all, with plans starting at $49.99 per month and cresting at $84.99 per month. (A $30 per month plan was previously available, but it lacked access to local broadcast affiliates. SIE discontinued this plan in 2017). Secondly, and most importantly for me at least, it’s $49.99 per month for dozens of channels that I will never watch, plus the eight or so that I actually will. This is exactly why I don’t have traditional cable in the first place — I’m not going to drop $50 a month to only use 15 percent of a service; it’s bad value proposition.
When PlayStation Vue was first rumored, scuttlebutt quickly spread that it might allow you to pay for individual cable channels piecemeal, as has been the true dream of cable television since the late 1800s. This was unfortunately not the case, as Sony went on to unveil a system that mostly offered the same product as traditional cable, with the a handful of compelling fringe benefits on the side. The television industry has changed a lot in the four years since then, but apparently not in the ways that Sony needed to make PlayStation Vue a success.