Sony web TV plans could undercut cable

Sony is reportedly scheming a web TV system intended to pull the rug out from under cable operators, delivering more affordable TV content via the internet to the PS3 and other Sony hardware. The company has opened talks with NBCUniversal, Discovery and News Corp, the WSJ's sources claim, though Sony's apparent aim to license a smaller package of channels – to keep its own costs, and subsequent user fees, low – is said to not be going down well among content creators.

Sony's system, though not technically specified at present, would stream video via the internet to the company's array of network-enabled A/V hardware. That includes the PS3 console, of course, but also smart TV sets, Blu-ray and DVD players, PVRs and other devices. Sony could also choose to open access to its VAIO range of computers.

Media studios, however, are said to be reluctant to offer Sony a pared down selection of channels for its service, as currently cable and satellite providers pay handsomely for comprehensive bundles and are dissuaded by high pricing from licensing a smaller set. That reluctance apparently blocked Apple from launching a web-based "best of TV" package in early 2010, using the Apple TV as a receiver. Sony could end up bypassing the big networks altogether, and opt for niche content to build out its US-wide service, sources claim.

The Japanese company has faced a significant struggle with its TV business over the past 12-18 months, with dreary hardware sales prompting Sony to split its LCD division into three. Sony CEO Howard Stringer has promised a "four screen" strategy to take on the expected Apple television with Siri-powered controls, pulling together Sony's PC, TV, tablet and phone businesses to deliver a joined-up entertainment platform.