After five years of trying to make its live TV streaming service a success, Sony has announced that it is shutting down PlayStation Vue. A precursor to similar services such as Hulu's live TV service and YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue offered a variety of so-called "skinny" bundles of cable and local broadcast television channels as a streaming replacement for traditional cable TV. The idea was that instead of paying a cable company for a glut of channels you'd never watch just to get access to the few that you do want, Vue would let you buy smaller packages of channels such as AMC, FX, and TBS. This was a great idea when the service first launched, but in an effort to stay competitive, management began adding additional bundles of channels to even the most basic levels of service while gradually inflating the price and it wasn't long before the monthly cost of the service was comparative to the traditional cable model it was trying to eschew. Worse, the new channels added to the service was some of the garbage channels that viewers were trying to ditch in droves by cutting the cable cord in the first place. You start out only wanting your favorite TNT dramas and suddenly you're paying $85 a month for a service tier including channels like Babyfirst and the Olympic Channel. The PlayStation Blog bids farewell to Vue.
Today we are announcing that we will shut down the PlayStation Vue service on January 30, 2020. Unfortunately, the highly competitive Pay TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected. Because of this, we have decided to remain focused on our core gaming business.
While sad to see Vue come to an end, it's probably for the best. Price increases and an increasingly lackluster library of channels weren't winning any fans, and while the service has 800,000 subscribers, it's long since been surpassed by services like Hulu's live TV service which boasts nearly 2,000,000 subscribers. It probably didn't help that by branding Vue with the PlayStation name, prospective customers assumed they would need a PlayStation to access the service which is not true; apps for mobile devices and set-top streaming boxes such as Amazon Fire TV have been available for years. There's also the baggage that the PlayStation name carries with it, implying to the uninitiated that the service is related to gaming instead of general television. I can't help but wonder if Vue had not been tied to the PlayStation brand and if it had stayed true to its mission of only offering small channel bundles that people wanted to watch for a fair price, it would have found success. There are already too many ways to overpay for channels we never watch. We certainly didn't need another option.