Sony to Shut Down PlayStation Vue in January 2020, the First Casualty of the Streaming Wars

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BY November 2, 2019

In 2015, Sony attempted to get a jumpstart on the Streaming Wars through their PlayStation vertical, offering live television, access to streaming apps, and even original programming. However, as the rest of the media business catches up, their experiment seems to have failed. In a press release, Sony Interactive announced that the PlayStation Vue service will shut down in January 2020. Unlike most mega-media companies, Sony tried very hard to carve out a space in the streaming landscape. First they tried Crackle, which had a hit with Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, though it eventually jumped ship to Netflix. Then, in 2015, they launched PlayStation Vue aimed at cord-cutters. However, after more than four years, the service will be no more as Sony sets its sights elsewhere. While this may seem like a failure, Sony may actually be in a great position as the Streaming Wars heat up.

What Is PlayStation Vue?

PLayStation Vue Shut down January 2020 Apps Image via Sony Interactive

Putting aside it being shut down, PlayStation Vue is an early pioneer in the streaming space, which meant that its strategy was something of a mess. They weren’t able to strike the sort of balance between original content and licensed programming that other services, like HBO Max, put together. Originally meant to be a combination of over-the-air programming, licensed cable channels, and on-demand content, the service never really landed.

Their biggest relationship came with CBS Corporation and Viacom, as they aired their network programming, cable channels, and premium channels like Showtime. They soon added NBCUniversal programming, 21st Century Fox television, and Scripps Networks.

Originally accessible only through the PlayStation4, Sony soon rolled out apps for the major phone operating systems, as well as apps for Sony’s own branded smart devices. However, after a 2016 announcement that NFL Red Zone and the NFL Network would come to the service, that started the path to shut down for PlayStation Vue. Rather than adding content, they began to lose it, starting with nearly 200 networks owned by Sinclair Broadcasting. The service was also limited to only within the continental United States. They also used a controversial IP address identification system that meant that some users were unable to access the service anywhere but their homes.

With so many other digital viewing options, including YouTubeTV and Hulu Live TV, the shut down of PlayStation Vue seemed inevitable.

The Reasons Why Sony Wants to Shut Down PlayStation Vue

PLayStation Vue Shut down January 2020 1 Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr

So, why would Sony shut down PlayStation Vue just as the Streaming Wars heats up? There are a number of reasons, mostly dealing with costs. With high licensing fees, the service just ended up being too costly for Sony Interactive to maintain. The annual cost for the service is near $700, much less than the $360 annual fee for Sling TV, $540 for Hulu Live TV, and around $600 for YouTubeTV. And none of those cheaper services came with the restrictions that encumbered PlayStation Vue. PlayStation and Sony’s efforts to create original, exclusive programming failed (despite some solid attempts). Licensing other content further drove up the price and cut into their profits. Also, because they named the service “PlayStation” many consumers believed they needed one of the consoles to get the most out of it.

Yet, the decision by Sony to shut down PlayStation Vue by January 2020 is not necessarily a defeat. Yes, Sony will not have their own streaming services anymore. (Though the PlayStation store for digital movies and shows will still exist.) However, with the market so crowded the parent company will be able to offer streaming services content. Sony’s efforts to create original content will now need to find a home for their stuff.

Services like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Max who are eager to license shows and films will buy their content. By abandoning the streaming space, Sony is now poised to make a lot of money from those still in it. (This is, of course, so long as Sony doesn’t sell Sony Pictures to Apple or some other media company.)

What do you think of the decision to shut down the PlayStation Vue service? Will you miss it? Did you even know it existed? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Featured image via Sony Interactive

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

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