Sony limiting rollout of PlayStation Vue pay-TV service to major cities at launch

Sony is concentrating the initial rollout of its PlayStation Vue pay-TV service on major cities, a move that seems to be somewhat of a retreat from its promise of commercial availability of the service in Q1.

According to The Wall Street Journal, which interviewed Andrew House, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, the Vue is set to begin its phased rollout in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia within the next few weeks. A Sony representative told FierceCable that other markets will be announced later this year.

Unveiling the product in November, Sony said the new service would include 75 channels from programmers such as Viacom, CBS Corp., NBCUniversal, Fox and Scripps, and would "launch commercially in the first quarter of 2015" after fourth-quarter trials were conducted in New York, L.A., Chicago and Philadelphia.

By "launch commercially," the Sony rep said the company only meant a few markets.

CLARIFICATION: The limiting of Vue's rollout to just three cities would seem to be a pushback of Sony's announced commercial rollout plans--and FierceCable originally reported it that way. Sony insists that a full-scale rollout was never part of its strategy.

Vue will use the deployed base of PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 gaming consoles to distribute its virtual MVPD service to homes. (The Japanese conglomerate has sold more than 20 million PlayStation 4 consoles since November 2013.) Vue will also be made available to Apple iOS mobile devices.

Analysts pegged monthly consumer cost projections for Vue at around $80.

Sony's formal announcement of the service in November drew criticism from analysts because of not only a relatively high speculative price point (Dish's Sling TV is only $20 a month) but also the fact that Sony doesn't have a licensing deal with the Walt Disney Company--and by extension, No. 1 cable channel ESPN--for the service.

"Even absent ESPN we are very confident that we have a very robust offering in the sports area with existing partnerships," House told WSJ. He added that talks with Disney are "ongoing and moving forward very positively."

Vue will not be the first streaming pay-TV service to hit the market, with Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) launching the Sling TV service in February. At Dish's Q4 earning call, company CEO and chairman Charlie Ergen labeled Vue the much more disruptive of the two services, citing Vue's much larger programming bundle.

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal story
- read this Reuters story

Related links:
Sony unveils pay-TV service PlayStation Vue … sans ESPN
Rumor mill: Sony's new pay-TV service to be priced at around $80 per month
Ergen: Sony's upcoming OTT service is the real disrupter, not Sling TV