Thursday, March 12, 2015, 11:39 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Verizon and Sony are both on deck with new OTT services poised to launch shortly, according to new reports over the past couple of days. Both companies have previously stated their intentions to pursue new video services, but haven't been specific about their timelines or anything else.
That is beginning to change, as Verizon announced yesterday that AwesomenessTV will provide 200+ hours of original content for its forthcoming service, via 2 channels, one targeted to teens and the other to young millennials. The channels will include scripted and unscripted series along with DreamWorksTV animated short-form content.
It's not clear yet what Verizon's strategy is for traditional broadcast or cable TV programming, or even for expanded online original content beyond the Awesomeness deal. It's also worth noting that if Verizon is pinning its video strategy on kids content as a differentiator, it will have a tough road ahead, given the proliferation of high quality kids content on existing OTT services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and YouTube. These services, which are getting stronger all the time, have already decimated kids' linear cable TV ratings.
Earlier this week, Verizon's CFO Fran Shammo said that the new video service will be "mobile first," has been in the works for 4 years, and will be powered in part by acquisitions like CDN provider Edgecast (no doubt Intel's OnCue will also have a key role). Verizon's mobile-centric strategy makes sense given its massive wireless footprint in the U.S. and that mobile video viewing is hitting new records these days.
In contrast, the WSJ reported yesterday that Sony will begin offering its PlayStation Vue OTT service in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia in the next couple of weeks. Vue will include TV networks from CBS, Viacom, NBCU and 21st Century Fox. Notably absent are ESPN and other Disney networks. ESPN is of course the flagship network being carried on the new Sling TV OTT service.
While Vue looks mainly positioned to drive sales of PlayStation consoles, it will apparently also be available via Apple iPads (which would be another coup for Apple in video, following the HBO Now's launch plans to be exclusively on Apple devices).
Sony hasn't revealed any pricing for Vue, but if it is striving for a full channel lineup to be competitive with pay-TV, it won't be cheap. I've written skeptically in the past about any Sony plan that wouldn't involved serious consumer cost savings as the primary inducement. I believe that even more strongly now, with a range of low-cost OTT options flooding the market. A new $80/month fully-loaded, pay-TV'ish service, for example would gain virtually no traction in my view.
With Verizon and Sony on deck and numerous other OTT services either announced or launched, the OTT land rush is now in full swing. It's a given that most of these new services won't succeed, but the industry deserves lots of credit for trying to innovate and meet viewers' fast-evolving expectations.