Veronica Rogers Appointed SVP of Business Opps at Sony Interactive Entertainment

Veronica Rogers will oversee global business operations as the new SVP of business operations for Sony Interactive Entertainment, the company responsible for the PlayStation brand and family of products.

She will report to president and CEO Jim Ryan and will lead Sony Interactive Entertainment’s go-to-market organization globally. Rogers will help drive business growth, lead strategic initiatives, and evolve the culture of business operations from its previously regionalized structure into a single global system.

“Veronica brings a wealth of experience leading global sales organizations, managing strategic partnerships, developing innovative business models, and building world class teams,” said Ryan in a statement. “She will play a crucial role in scaling the business and I’m thrilled she has brought her expertise to the PlayStation family.”

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Rogers will be responsible for global alignment in sales operations, both physical and digital, as well as lead PlayStation subscription services. She has nearly 20 years of experience leading business development, strategic planning, and sales operations at large global organizations including Microsoft and Dell Technologies.

“The PlayStation brand is one of the most beloved in the world and I am excited to join a company that has such a passionate community, legendary history, and an amazing leadership team,” said Rogers in a statement. “My experience leading global sales organizations will help excel the PlayStation business and deliver the best gaming experiences to fans across the world.”

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Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) is responsible for the PlayStation brand and family of products and services. The 25-year-old PlayStation brand includes PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Store, PlayStation Plus, PlayStation Video, PlayStation Music, PlayStation Now, PlayStation Vue, and PlayStation software titles from SIE Worldwide Studios. The PlayStation 5 game system, which includes a UHD Blu-ray player, is scheduled to debut in the upcoming holiday season.

Shuttering PlayStation Vue Directing Subs to YouTube TV

Shuttering online TV service PlayStation Vue is directing its 500,000 subscribers to Google’s YouTube TV. The online service, which launched in 2015, had been entertaining bidders for its subs with Google the apparent winner. Since launching in 2017, YouTube TV has more than 1 million subs paying $40 monthly for service.

In an email to Vue subscribers, Sony said all active members would be able to use the service, including DVR functionality and video-on-demand until Jan. 30, 2020. Sony also suggested subs consider YouTube TV, which included a link and free trial period.

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Sony also included a link explaining why it decided in October to walk away from online TV. Citing “the highly competitive Pay TV industry, with expensive content and network deals,” Sony said consumer migration from pay-TV to digital distribution has been “slower to change than we expected.”

“Because of this, we have decided to remain focused on our core video gaming business,” Sony wrote in a blog.

The company said PlayStation users could continue to access movie and TV content through the PlayStation Store on PS4 and via its Movies Anywhere partnerships.

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“With 100 million PlayStation 4s in the market today, our community continues to grow and thrive,” the company wrote. “We will continue to deliver the best entertainment experiences across the network, along with other key gaming services, including PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus.”

Sony to Shutter PlayStation Vue

Sony Interactive Entertainment announced in a blog post that it would be shutting down its PlayStation Vue live TV streaming service on Jan. 30, 2020.

“Unfortunately, the highly competitive pay-TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected,” read the blog from deputy president John Kodera. “Because of this, we have decided to remain focused on our core gaming business.”

The service launched more than four years ago.

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“PlayStation fans can continue to access movie and TV content through the PlayStation Store on PS4 and via our partnerships with top entertainment apps,” read the blog. “With 100 million PlayStation 4s in the market today, our community continues to grow and thrive. We will continue to deliver the best entertainment experiences across the network, along with other key gaming services, including PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus.

“We are very proud of what PlayStation Vue was able to accomplish. We had ambitious goals for how our service could change how people watch TV, showcasing PlayStation’s ability to innovate in a brand-new category within the Pay TV industry. We want to thank all of our customers, some of whom have been with us since PlayStation Vue’s launch in 2015.”

Sony reportedly had been looking for a buyer for the service, with roughly half a million subscribers and plans starting at around $50 a month.

Charter Spectrum Loses 77,000 Q3 Video Subs; Ups Criticism of Shared Passwords

Charter Spectrum joined other pay-TV distributors reporting ongoing subscriber losses of traditional linear video entertainment in the home.

The company Oct. 25 said it lost 77,000 video subs in the third quarter, ended Sept. 30. That compared with a loss of 66,000 subs in the previous-year period.

The service has jettisoned 415,000 video subs in the past fiscal year, ending the period with 15.7 million.

Charter did add 351,000 broadband subscribers, underscoring ongoing consumer migration towards over-the-top video services such as Netflix and online TV. It added 266,000 high-speed Internet subs during the previous-year period.

The service ended the period with 24.5 million broadband subs, up from 23.3 million subs a year ago.

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With the onslaught of high-profile SVOD services from Disney and Apple, in addition to WarnerMedia early next year, CEO Tom Rutledge was asked about the growing industry concern regarding the sharing of user passwords among non-subscribers.

Without naming offending OTT services, Rutledge alluded to third-party streaming services affording simultaneous access to five separate users with no location-based security.

“I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall talking about privacy or piracy, password sharing and pricing, but they’re all inter-related issues,” Rutledge said on the fiscal call.

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge

He criticized content creators entering the distribution market seemingly indifferent to where their programming is going.

Indeed, Netflix, which has heretofore turned a blind eye toward password sharing, has begun looking into the practice.

“It has not been part of their DNA [worrying about it],” Rutledge said. “Most households in the United States have two or less people in them. And as a result of that, there are more streams available [for free] than there are households.”

The executive contends that until there is increased scrutiny on video access in and out of the home on a single account, “it’s just too easy to get the product without paying for it.”

“When we look at data consumption, we can see that video consumption isn’t going down even when people disconnect their paid video,” Rutledge said. “And as a result of that, it makes the [subscription] price value relationship really difficult when it’s free.”

Separately, Rutledge said Spectrum was considering partnering with Comcast’s Flex SVOD service for broadband-only subscribers.

Charter several years ago bowed Spectrum TV Plus, a $12.99 monthly online TV service for its broadband-only subs. The service included a free Roku player.

In 2018, the service was changed to $14.99 Spectrum TV Plus. Last year Charter unveiled “TV Essentials,” a $15 monthly “skinny bundle” option for pay-TV subs.

“We have a significant number of app based relationships that we’ve developed on multiple devices, and that strategy is working for us,” Rutledge said. “And putting inexpensive devices out with your service makes some sense to us.”

Online TV Fortunes Shift as Sony Reportedly Looks to Sell PlayStation Vue

With Dish Network’s pioneering launch of Sling TV in 2015, online TV appeared to be traditional pay-TV’s antidote to subscription streaming video, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

But four years later and the online TV, or virtual MVPD market, has cooled. Online TV services added 430,000 combined subs in the second quarter — a 44% decline from 756,000 net subs additions in the previous-year quarter.

The market, which includes Philo, Hulu Live, YouTube TV, Spectrum TV, and Vidgo, among others, appears stuck in neutral as high-profile SVOD services from Disney, Apple, NBC Universal and WarnerMedia are poised to enter the market.

AT&T’s ambitious DirecTV Now service has thousands of subs after it did away with a $34.99 loss-leading price point. The platform is now called AT&T TV Now with about 1.5 million subs.

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Sling TV continues to lead the standalone online TV market with 2.47 million subs — up 128,000 subs from 2.34 million subs last year. But that growth has eluded Sony’s branded $49.99 PlayStation Vue service, which languishes as a fiscal underachiever with around 500,000 subs.

According to media reports, Sony has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to explore PS Vue sale options, with competitor Fubo TV reportedly interested. Nothing has been announced and sports-themed Fubo and Sony aren’t talking.

When Vue launched, it was the first online TV service offering cloud-based storage and on-demand features. But Sony last year began sounding warnings about Vue, saying the “market and future business model” for the platform remained rocky.

Indeed, when Vue dropped Sinclair Broadcast Group stations last year, Sinclair sent out a press release announcing that it had removed ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliated stations from the platform due to “certain contractual provisions” — downplaying any material effect on its business due to Vue’s “very small subscriber base.”

“We remind Sony subscribers that there are other video distributor options available to receive our broadcast stations’ programming, including Sony’s direct competitor YouTube TV, which continues to carry stations that Sony has dropped,” Sinclair wrote in the release. “Fortunately, subscribers to PlayStation Vue can terminate their subscriptions with ease and without termination fees.”

Disney Ups TV Channel Distribution With PlayStation Vue

Disney Media Distribution has upped its portfolio of TV channels offered on Sony’s online TV platform, PlayStation Vue.

The standalone TV service with more than 800,000 subscribers now has access to Disney’s recently acquired FX and National Geographic networks, in addition to ESPN’s ACC Network.

Sean Breen, SVP of Disney Media Distribution, said Vue offers subscribers personalization, which he said is “attractive” as consumers navigate video options.

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“We look forward to continue serving subscribers the full value of our content from Walt Disney Television and ESPN,” Breen said in a statement.

Existing Disney channels on Vue include ABC, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN College Extra, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Bases Loaded, SEC Network, ACC Network, Longhorn Network, FX, FXX, FXM, Fox Life, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo, BabyTV, and ABC News Live.

The expanded carriage agreement comes after Sony raised the monthly Vue subscription fee $5, bringing the platform’s bundle options priced $50 to $85.

 

Sony PlayStation Vue Could Lose HBO, Cinemax

As media distribution competition intensifies, existing carriage agreements are changing.

Sony’s online TV service PlayStation Vue warned on its website that it may soon lose WarnerMedia’s HBO, Cinemax and NBA TV, among other programming.

“Most of the programming/content you watch on PlayStation Vue is licensed from programmers for the right to air their networks/channels,” read the site. “Once these agreements near expiration, we enter into renewal discussions where we work hard to try and obtain the best value for our customers.”

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While Vue has license agreements with WarnerMedia through the end of the month, the AT&T subsidiary is reportedly looking for increased subscriber commitments from licensees.

Dish Network recently dropped HBO from its satellite and online service Sling TV due to the demands. CEO Charlie Ergen recently argued Dish users could subscribe to HBO Now separately if they wanted the programming he has no interest in subsidizing.

With Vue subscriptions reportedly trailing Sling, AT&T TV, YouTube TV, Sony is trying to streamline programming costs.

“Though infrequent, sometimes certain licenses will not be renewed, in which case PlayStation Vue would no longer carry the affected channels or networks,” read the site. “This section will be updated periodically to list channels and networks coming up for renewal.”

 

Sony Downsizing PlayStation Vue?

Sony Interactive Entertainment reportedly is scaling back its involvement with local television affiliates for its branded PlayStation Vue online TV service.

Cord Cutter News, citing emails sent to affiliates from Sony, said the 4-year-old platform is looking to “deprioritize” Vue in marketing efforts across third-party websites.

Launched in 2015, the same year as Dish Network’s pioneering SlingTV, Vue has struggled to generate significant subscriber scale. The platform reportedly has about 800,000 subs — which pales in comparison to Sling’s 2.3 million.

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In fact, Vue also trails DirecTV Now, which AT&T is rebranding as “AT&T Now,” YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV.

Vue in July upped the monthly fee of its basic plan by $5 for existing subscribers to $50 monthly, with additional programming tiers “Elite” and “Ultra” priced at $65 and $85, respectively.

A rep from Sony Interactive Entertainment wasn’t immediately available for comment.

OTT Video Consumption Skyrockets

Consumers in the United States continue to migrate toward over-the-top video distribution with streaming viewing hours in the second quarter (ended June 30) more than double (130%) from a year ago, according to new data from Conviva.

While major markets dominate overall domestic streaming consumption, Dallas, Atlanta, and Phoenix are the top 3 cities when streaming video consumption is normalized by population — ahead of tech hubs Boston, New York, and San Francisco.

The percentage of televisions connected to the Internet increased 143%, largely driven by Roku with 173% growth and 43% market share of connected TV viewing. Amazon Fire TV was up 145% in viewing with an 18% share. Apple TV was up 129% to account for 10% share.

“In 2019, streaming is coming into its own,” read the report.

Video-on-demand now accounts for 66% of all viewing hours, up from 59% last year. While mobile devices command near equal share of live versus on-demand viewing at 22.8% and 23.7%, respectively, PCs garner more share of on-demand viewing at 16.5% versus 12.6%, while connected TVs command more share of live at 56.5% versus 53.1%.

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Notably, Roku accounted for the majority of all live viewing via connected TV with 53.8%.

The report found that online TV services such as DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV saw triple-digit growth in viewing year over year.

Market dynamics, including consolidation and the increase of hybrid business models from media companies such as NBC Universal, Apple, Disney and WarnerMedia, suggest there is even more room for growth and innovation as the lines between business models blur.

Conviva said the growth gap between studios content creators and online distributors closed even more in Q2 than previous quarters, but content aggregators continue to best other services in terms of consumption as well as quality, with viewing hours up 168% year over year.

Not to be outdone, publishers in the United States also recorded impressive growth of 137% in viewing hours year over year. The overall growth in consumption is indicative of headroom for existing streaming services alongside future entrants.

“Increased competition will also spur innovation and, as the industry saw with hybrid models with subscription and ads, more convergence in business models,” read the report.

Facebook and YouTube saw 15% more videos posted as news media led social media with the largest growth in average total video views, up 197% year-over-year. Entertainment led in growth of views per video, up 99%.
While ad-supported VOD and online TV continue to gain traction among consumers, Conviva found that ad buffering remains a “silent engagement killer” among users.

The difference between a viewer making it past the 5% mark in the video stream depends greatly on whether or not the ad flows correctly. In addition, the average streaming ad length reached 24.87 seconds despite the fact viewership drops significantly with 20+ second ads.

“The TV industry of yesterday was built on inflexible standards, antiquated measurement, and limited data. Streaming offers the vast potential of a rapidly maturing market, flexibility, targeting, and data to understand the audience like never before.”

PlayStation Vue Ups Pricing by $5

Sony’s PlayStation Vue online TV service is increasing its monthly fee $5, effectively immediately for new subscribers. Existing members will be delayed the price hike until August.

The service’s entry-level “Core” plan now costs $50 monthly, with additional programming tiers “Elite” and “Ultra” priced at $65 and $85, respectively.

Launched in 2015, Vue shadowed Dish Network’s Sling TV as the second standalone online TV service that afforded subscribers monthly access to pay-TV without long-term contracts.

Unique to Vue, subscribers can access the app outside of PlayStation hardware, including on Apple TV, iPad and iPhone.

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With access to more than 650 local broadcasters, in addition to national networks, and HBO, FX, HGTV, ESPN, and NFL Network, Vue also added beIN Sports and the pending NHL Network and ACC Network.

“With costs rising each year for content, we constantly evaluate each deal to ensure we continue to deliver the content you want while considering the overall value of each package,” PlayStation Vue wrote in blog post. “After reviewing this, we have made the decision to raise the price of all of our multi-channel plans.”