Sony goes head on with satellite TV

By Stephen Foley

Sony is negotiating with US broadcasters, including NBC Universal, Discovery Communications and News Corporation to provide content.

Sony is working on a plan to shake up the way people watch television, with a service that will pipe TV channels direct to the company's PlayStation consoles, BluRay video players and television sets.

The Japanese electronics giant believes it may be able to dislodge cable TV providers and satellite broadcasters from their entrenched position and is in negotiations to assemble content for a new internet TV service, aimed first at the US.

More than 18 million US homes have internet-enabled PlayStation 3, and Sony's new mid- and high-end television sets all come with internet connections. The company already offers movie rentals through its devices, but now wants to add whole TV channels.

As an electronics manufacturer, Sony has one clear advantage over cable and satellite broadcasters, says Richard Broughton, the head of broadband media at the research firm Screen Digest.

"Device manufacturers can put new services on new devices and test things in the market in a way that a cable or satellite company cannot."

But Sony faces formidable challenges in assembling a suite of TV channels that consumers would be willing to pay for, Broughton said, and persuading them to dump their cable or satellite provider altogether may be an ambition too far.

The television industry is in a period of experimentation as the possibility has emerged of delivering TV channels, pay-per-view services and video streaming over the internet.

New services such as Hulu in the US, which is co-owned by several of the major TV networks, enable people to watch old episodes of TV shows on demand on their computers.

Cable companies in the US and BSkyB in Britain are introducing services that let subscribers watch channels not only on the TV but on tablet computers.

And looming over the market is Apple, where founder Steve Jobs was working on a television offering before he died last month.

"I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use," he told biographer Walter Isaacson. "It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."

- Independent

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