Sony takes on Comcast, DirecTV with plans for Internet-based TV service

Andrew House of Sony Computer Entertainment speaks about Andrew House of Sony Computer Entertainment speaks about the PlayStation Now game service in Las Vegas. (Jan. 7, 2014) Photo Credit: Bloomberg News

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LAS VEGAS - Sony will begin testing an Internet-based television service in the United States this year, challenging traditional cable and satellite providers including Comcast and DirecTV.

The product will combine live programs with an on-demand library of films and TV shows, Andrew House, group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, said Tuesday at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Tokyo-based company will also test a video-game streaming service for PlayStation consoles, smartphones and TVs.

The cloud-based efforts highlight SONY CEO Kazuo Hirai's bid to remake Sony for a new generation of consumers who want easy access to content anytime, anywhere. Since taking over in April 2012, Hirai has trumpeted what he calls a One Sony vision -- that he can deliver better returns making televisions, mobile phones and consoles under the same roof as movies and TV shows, video games and music.

The new service will have personalized channels catered to the viewer's tastes, House said. He said it will enable viewers to see what their friends are watching.

Sony didn't offer details of any content agreements for the TV service. The company reached a preliminary accord to stream pay-television programming from Viacom Inc. over the Web, a person with knowledge of the matter said in August.

Obtaining rights to films and TV shows owned by others may be difficult and expensive, said Craig Moffett, senior research analyst at MoffettNathanson LLC in Manhattan.

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"The digital rights issues are incredibly complicated," Moffett said. "Sony might therefore be required to get the rights not only for the networks, but also for the individual shows. And in many cases, those rights simply aren't available. They have already been sold to companies like Netflix."

The game service, called PlayStation Now, will offer a subscription option and titles to rent, House said. The company will demonstrate it this week at CES on its Bravia TV sets and the PS Vita handheld device, and begin testing in the United States at the end of this month. Full introduction is expected mid-year, House said.

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