Can Sony Replace Your Cable With A PlayStation?

If there’s been any place that Sony has been an odd success, it’s been with streaming video. The PS3 became the most commonly used streaming platform for Netflix, and it appears the PS4 is selling to people who don’t bother with video games. Which has led to Sony’s boldest, most surprising plan: To essentially become your cable provider through the PlayStation.

The terms of the deal are murky; the Wall Street Journal has only confirmed that Viacom has fully signed on for the streaming plan. But Sony is negotiating with other networks, and most of them don’t leave money on the table, especially not with an established network and a rapidly growing one on top of that.

And, of course, the PlayStation Vita TV is on the way, essentially the first microconsole worth picking up. It seems unlikely this won’t have the same streaming capabilities.

The main issue here is twofold. First, how is this going to work? Viacom is a big fan of bundling channels, to the point where they’re in court over whether or not it’s an antitrust violation. It seems unlikely that any cable company is going to voluntarily offer a la carte channels, and Sony has too much at stake to force the issue.

Similarly, will we be able to pick content, or is this just a livestream? One suspects the livestream model is what will come together, and that means ads.

The second is, well, what’s this going to cost? Again, Sony is at the relative mercy of the channels, but on the other hand, most cable networks are actually dirt-cheap, per subscriber, and Netflix sets the tone, here. The cost has to make up for the drawbacks, if any.

Still, it’s intriguing, not least because it has the potential to reshape TV. We’ll learn more about this service soon; it’s supposedly debuting next year.