Sony Corp. said its PlayStation Vue streaming TV service will stop carrying all of Viacom Inc.’s channels on Nov. 11 in order to “continue to offer the most compelling value to our fans.”
Sony’s head of PlayStation Vue, Dwayne Benefield, said the service will launch AMC Networks Inc.’s part-owned BBC America and NBA TV, and plans to add VICE and more CBS and Fox local broadcast stations soon. He noted that Vue has expanded nationwide this year and launched other channel groups like Walt Disney Co.’s, which includes ESPN and ABC.
Until now, the service has made available a vast number of Viacom channels, even to customers subscribing to its cheapest “Access” tier. For instance, the slimmest bundle a Sony Vue subscriber can get comes with at least 11 Viacom channels, including MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, as well as less-popular networks such as CMT, MTV 2, and Spike.
In Sept. 2014, Viacom became Sony’s first partner for Vue. Both touted at the time that their deal included carriage of more than 20 Viacom channels. Viacom executives talked up Sony’s service in comparison to Dish Network Corp.’s Sling TV because of Sony’s willingness to carry all its networks and the Japanese company’s vast installed user base of PlayStation console gamers.
In the Tuesday post, Mr. Benefield didn’t address whether Sony Vue rates will come down as a result of dropping the Viacom channels. In an email, a Sony spokeswoman said “we have no pricing changes to announce at this time.”
Viacom, which reports earnings for the September quarter on Wednesday, is struggling to show investors a turnaround plan after a prolonged stretch of weak results driven by poor performance at its core cable networks and film studio. One question for investors is how widely distributed the company’s channels will be in the “skinny” online TV bundles entering the market, given that several small cable operators have dropped Viacom channels in the past couple years.
A Viacom spokesman noted that the value of the company’s networks to new entrants in streaming TV is evident through its licensing deal with AT&T ’s forthcoming service DirecTV Now, which will carry 11 Viacom networks, and an earlier agreement with Sling TV.
Viacom spent the summer embroiled in a legal drama with National Amusements, which is the controlling shareholder of Viacom and CBS Corp. National Amusements recently asked the two media companies to explore a merger.
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