Sony, Microsoft and the Battle for Television

Sections: CES, Consoles, Conventions, PS3, PS4, TV, Xbox One

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One of the Xbox One’s biggest advantages over the PS4 is on the verge of being challenged. At the Consumer Electronics Show last week, Sony revealed its intentions to release a live television, DVR and on-demand video service that will be available on over 70 million current Sony devices around the world. Based on this announcement, it doesn’t appear that Sony is partnering with existing cable and satellite companies to make this happen. That means you probably won’t need to pay for traditional television to get what Sony is offering. Suddenly, the Xbox One’s ability to become your cable box is less significant than it once was. There are plenty of details that are yet to be cleared up on Sony’s end, but let’s run through some possible advantages and disadvantages of Sony’s service compared to what Microsoft is offering.

Microsoft has a bad habit of charging customers to access things they already pay for. For example, you can’t access content from Netflix, Hulu Plus, various TV network apps or even use the live TV feature on Xbox One without paying $60 a year for Xbox Live Gold. Xbox Live Gold is more of a toll than an added value proposition. Sony is likely to charge for its new video service, but you’ll be paying Sony for a service that only Sony offers. Everything will be pulled down from the cloud, and can be accessed from a bunch of different Sony devices. In this case, Sony seeks to be the sole deliverer of your video entertainment wherever you happen to be. The Xbox One all-in-one media influence dwindles as soon as you leave the house. It does however still has an advantage as far as content is concerned.

It’s not easy for non-cable companies to strike deals with networks to put their content online. If it were that easy, we’d see everything on Netflix right now. Much like streaming music services, it’s likely some networks will be a part of Sony’s service and some won’t. There’s a chance the show you want to watch live won’t be available on Sony’s platform. On Xbox One, you know you’re getting every channel you’re paying for. You can also be assured that all the on-demand TV network apps will be at your disposal as long as you pay for cable and Xbox Live Gold. Sony’s service may be cheaper overall, but the amount of available content will likely be trumped compared to Xbox One.

As it currently stands, the Xbox One is the best console for enjoying video content. It’ll probably continue to be the best after Sony puts out its TV service. However, that advantage comes at a cost. Sony is using its swagger as one of the world’s biggest tech and media companies to offer television in a forward-thinking way. Microsoft tied the Xbox One to the old world philosophies of the cable companies. Microsoft’s decision is working well, but how long will it last?

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