Sony is arguably one of the biggest players in the streaming video game. The PS3 is the most popular platform for streaming Netflix, beating out even laptops, and it’s been fighting Microsoft and other contenders to have the most popular set-top box. And it may have just landed an enormous breakthrough: Getting a major cable channel owner, Viacom, to stream their channels through Sony’s consoles and boxes.
Viacom is probably the least happy out of all the cable channel providers with the current system. In fact, it’s currently embroiled in a lawsuit with Cablevision that hints at what Sony may have had to accept in order to get this deal: Namely, avoiding unbundling channels.
Most likely, Sony will pay higher rates — one of the downsides of being new and untested. Any deals between programmers and the Sonys of the world will keep the TV bundle intact, despite occasional public agitation for an “a la carte” option.
On the other hand, Viacom’s programming includes Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, and Spike; considering the standard of streaming services is $8 a pop, a lot of people can justify that for, say, The Daily Show. Viacom is also largely owned by the same guy who owns CBS, and who you might remember is currently in a little spat with Time Warner Cable. But either way, it’s very bad news for cable companies.
Why? Simple. If Viacom can make money streaming cable channels, there is quite literally no reason whatsoever for the rest of the cable channels not to follow suit. The only real roadblock is some legalese in the contracts that prevents channels from offering any sort of sweetheart deal to streaming providers…but since the entire idea is to take streaming providers for more, there’s little cable companies can actually do. And if the broadcast networks choose to get in on this, or decide to start backing Aereo in exchange for a cut of the profits, then it’s all over for cable.
Unfortunately, this method does seem to put a bullet in the “a la carte” method that ultimately gives the consumer the most choice and frankly makes the most sense. It still makes no sense that each cable channel doesn’t have a streaming app that doesn’t let you skip the ads and costs a buck a month to run. But if it forces cable companies to face reality, it might mean your cable bill finally drops. Or at least that you’ll have options for cutting the cord.
(Image courtesy of imbecillsallad on Flickr)