Deeper Dive—PS Vue’s demise leaves a live TV hole on PlayStation

PlayStation 4 (Sony)

When PlayStation Vue goes dark on Jan. 30, 2020, it will leave PlayStation owners without an option for streaming live television on their game consoles.

Neither YouTube TV, Sling TV, AT&T TV Now, fuboTV nor Philo have an app on PlayStation. Hulu has an app for the PlayStation 3 and 4 but that app doesn’t support live TV. Plex Pass subscribers can couple their Plex DVR service with a compatible tuner and antenna to watch live TV on a PlayStation 4 but that’s limited to local, over-the-air channels.

The lack of a streaming TV app on PlayStation could potentially impact a lot of consumers. PS Vue reportedly had about 500,000 subscribers before it decided to shut down. Though PS Vue was available on lots of different devices and platforms, it’s reasonable to believe that many of those subscribers were using their PlayStation game consoles to access the service.

There’s also a large addressable market of PlayStation device owners. As of September 30, Sony said that it has sold 102.8 million PlayStation 4 consoles to retailers. As of March 31, 2017, Sony said it had sold 87.4 million PlayStation 3 units.

Some streaming TV services are specifically targeting PlayStation Vue subscribers. Recently launched vMVPD Vidgo, which also doesn’t have a PlayStation app, is offering Vue subscribers a reduced rate when they switch over and submit a copy of their Vue bill. While not specifically targeting PS Vue subscribers, Sling TV is currently offering new and returning customers a free Roku Express when they prepay for two months, a deal that could be appealing to PlayStation owners in need of a new device for streaming TV.

These are both potential options for PS Vue subscribers looking for a new live streaming TV service, but neither address the lack of a vMVPD on PlayStation consoles. But that could be a problem of Sony’s own making.

Michael Goodman, director of digital media strategies at Strategy Analytics, said that Sony likely never wanted a PlayStation Vue competitor on its platform, an indicator of Sony’s wider strategy.

“I think that Sony has been a lot more careful about what third-party apps they allow onto PlayStation,” Goodman said.

He pointed toward Amazon as another example of a company that has been reticent toward allowing competitors onto their platform. When Amazon does allow competing services onto its platforms, they don’t always work as well as Amazon’s apps, Goodman said.

However, now that PlayStation Vue’s days are numbered, he said it’s not inconceivable that Sony would allow a third-party streaming TV app onto its platform.

Sony did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding streaming TV on PlayStation consoles after PS Vue shuts down. So, it’s unclear what, if any, plans the company has to address the gap.

It could be that PlayStation will solely focus on gaming after January. When Sony Interactive Entertainment announced the closure, the company said it had “decided to remain focused on our core gaming business.” With cloud gaming emerging as a bigger opportunity and Sony’s head start with PlayStation Now, that could be a good strategy for the company.

For PlayStation owners hoping to continue streaming TV without having to buy a new device, though, Sony’s new plans could leave them in the lurch.