By adaptive - March 8th, 2016

There’s a new way to view the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” as video gamers and real-life sports are coming together in a bigger way on a single platform.

While it’s game on for cord-cutting gamers, the addition of Disney and ESPN programming to the Sony PlayStation Vue streaming service highlights that the OTT game is still in the early innings. Robert Gray has the story…

Sony’s PlayStation Vue has scored a coup, becoming one of the first streaming services to offer Disney and ESPN Media Networks. This includes different ESPN networks, the ABC broadcast network, Disney Channel and more.

“Although Disney ESPN Media Networks are available in a few other Internet-based outlets, including their own authenticated apps, only PlayStation Vue offers them in a multi-channel service with massive cloud DVR and multiple stream capability,” explains Dwayne Benefield, vice president, head of PlayStation Vue.

That may be splitting hairs technologically, but Disney’s methodical move to stream its content has been closely watched, especially after the entertainment giant warned investors last August that its ESPN network was losing subscribers. The stock price tumbled more than 20 percent over the next three weeks and remains near that August low, on concern the pace of cord cutting (getting rid of cable) is picking up steam.

Disappointing earnings reports from Disney’s media rivals helped create what one media executive calls a “sky is falling” fear over cord cutting. The executive, who deals with Disney and did not want to be identified, also said, “Cord cutting is a misnomer. If you stream everything you still need a cord to deliver high-speed broadband. Content is king and ESPN has the best content tied up for a long time.”

The partnership may be a needed boost for both sides. Disney’s sports offerings and highly-regarded children’s content have been a glaring omission on most streaming platforms while Disney has been searching for ways to reach a new audience.

“PlayStation Vue allows Disney ESPN Media Networks to reach PlayStation’s large and heavily desired, millennial audience with their unique programming,” Benefield says, adding the service’s user experience and technology will provide Disney with the ability “to distribute more relevant ads through digital ad insertion, both live and on-demand.”
These are just the customers that some observers fear traditional networks are no longer reaching through cable and satellite distributors.

PS Vue claims its users are “highly engaged”, watching more than five hours of content per day. That’s more than an hour a day higher than the daily average for 18-34 year-olds nationwide, which research firm Nielsen reports as between 3 ¼ hours and just under four hours.

Sony says three-quarters of its audience is in the 18-34 demographic that is coveted by networks and advertisers.
Terms of this deal were not released, but PS Vue has been expanding since the platform’s debut last spring. It’s now available in a number of major markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco and Miami, although it remains to be seen if the service is viable on a larger scale.

Analysts are skeptical that Vue by itself will help give PlayStation consoles a sales bump, but Sony claims it’s a differentiator from rivals such as Microsoft’s Xbox--which abandoned its own original content studio but still offers streaming via Netflix and other apps.

Sony is also eyeing “Vue-ers” on other platforms. The Vue service is not only available on PlayStation 3 and 4 and a Vue mobile app, it’s also supported by so-called over the top (OTT) streaming devices including Amazon Fire, Apple iOS devices, and Google’s Chromecast.

Vue stores an unlimited amount of selected programs in the cloud, but only for up to 28 days. Sony officials say they canvassed gamers and the month-long period was the sweet spot for storing shows.

Sony would not disclose subscriber numbers, but does say it’s offering a seven-day free trial for new customers and has cut prices by $10 for multi-channel packages for new and existing customers. The subscriptions now begin at $39.99 per month for Access, $44.99 for Core, and $54.99 Elite gets more than 100 channels. ABC, ESPN, ESPN 2, Disney Channel, and Disney Junior are on the entry-level Access plan.

While the deal gets more sports to the target demo, a media executive who declined to be named sees challenges ahead: “Some streaming services like HBO’s are not performing at a level many expected {and} streaming, especially live sports, still has a lot of technical issues.”

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