Sony's revised Vue gets high marks from tech press, but some analysts 'still skeptical'

Described by one media analyst as "DOA" last year when it debuted with a $50-a-month price point, and only in a handful of markets with no ESPN, Sony's PlayStation Vue virtual pay-TV service seems to erase all three issues with a single announcement earlier this week.

Now available everywhere in the U.S. with a skinny $30-a-month bundle option, Vue is averaging a solid 4 1/2 stars out of five among polled CNET readers who have sampled the reconfigured service. 

MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett, meanwhile, noted that Vue's new skinny tier positions the product in a nice niche of the live-streaming market. 

"Relative to the industry's other skinny bundles that are currently being marketed, Sony's entry level package is priced in between Dish's Sling TV ($20/mo) and Verizon's Custom TV ($69.99/mo).  However, unlike Dish's cheaper offering, Sony Vue's package also comes with digital DVR capabilities and up to five simultaneous streams," Moffett said in a blog post earlier this week.

Still, despite the re-positioning, not everyone is sold.

"Sorry, I'm still skeptical," Diffusion Group senior analyst Alan Wolk told FierceCable. The problem, Wolk said, is living room access. While Vue features iOS and Android apps, and is portable to the living-room set via Google Chromecast, its principal appliance remains PlayStation 4 gaming consoles. 

"The deal breaker is that most people don't have just one TV," the analyst added. "And equipping two or three TVs with a Sony PlayStation is expensive."

Meanwhile, even fans of Vue's reconfiguration are finding cons — particularly with the decision to axe live local broadcast channels from the skinny tiers.

"Would have given five full stars but it not only lacks Pix 11 and SNY," remarked a CNET reviewer. 

Starting Monday, consumers in 203 TV markets across the nation were granted access to the service. After slashing the three existing Vue programming tiers by $10 a month two weeks ago, Sony is now debuting a reconfigured set of tiers, under the PlayStation Vue Slim banner, to the newly added regions.

The Slim tiers won't have live access to local broadcast affiliates, but users still have next-day, on-demand access to the major broadcast networks, however.

"We were intent on bringing this valuable service to broader reach as quickly as possible," said Dwayne Benefield, VP and head of PlayStation Vue for Sony Network Entertainment International, told Variety. "With the assortment of channels we have now, we feel we are strong alternative to current pay-TV providers and new entrants."

For his part, Moffett believes the live local feeds are essential. 

"As we have written before, we believe that the live local feed for markets outside of the broadcasters' O&O markets remain the biggest holdup for a true nationwide OTT offering as new entrants like Sony need to negotiate with local station owners to get access to their programming. We also note that this effectively prices the live-streaming portion of the broadcast networks in the $2.50 per channel range," he said.

For more:
- read this CNET story
- read this MoffettNathanson blog post (sub. req.)

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