While PlayStation Vue, one of the first two virtual MVPDs to enter the market, appears to have stagnated in subscriber growth, and has suffered some major programming defections, Sony seemingly remains committed to the product.
Case in point: The company has announced the addition of 200 local ABC, FOX and NBC affiliates, bringing its total bundle of local broadcast stations under retransmission agreement to around 450. (Sony has a list of its available locals here.)
Users in the relevant markets will now be able to live-stream local network affiliates rather than just receiving on-demand prime-time programming from the major broadcast networks tied to these stations. (Notably, according to Cord Cutter News, users won't have DVR access to these channels.)
Carving out affiliate deals is an tedious, time-consuming expensive process. But both YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV—which came into the vMVPD market two years after PlayStation Vue—have had audience-growth success with an aggressive strategy of adding local stations.
These services haven’t publicly released their subscriber numbers. But according to Strategy Analytics estimates released last week, Vue has around 745,000 users compared to around 955,000 for Hulu Live, even though the former has been in the market far longer.
Vue also announced the addition of ESPN College Extra. And earlier in August, Sony debuted a new PlayStation 4 controller more adept at TV watching that video game play.
For Sony, these are important indicators that it remains firmly behind its three-year-old vMVPD, which lost 24 affiliate tie-ups in 23 markets in May when it didn’t renew its retrans deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sony also let its carriage deal with Viacom lapse last year.
While not yet very profitable for any of the more than half-dozen major participants involved, virtual pay TV services continue to add customers. But the market is crowded with services priced at around $40 a month and offering basically the same channels. For users, the decision as to which service to choose often comes down to which platform has the right combination of local channels and regional sports networks in their individual market.
In May, Sony’s CEO Kenichiro Yoshida told reporters that Sony has no plans to shut down PS Vue, as it is bringing in useful user data.