In August, Sony announced a tentative deal with Viacom to stream its content, which could give it a major advantage in the Internet TV market. Now, Sony is readying to launch its own Google Chromecast-like dongle.
Entertainment-industry magazine Variety broke the news about Sony's plans to debut a Bravia Smart Stick this week. They describe it as a plug-in adapter for Sony's current-generation HD televisions, based on Google TV software for running interactive TV apps.
There's a vast gulf between pricing strategies. Google is making its Chromecast available for just $35, while Sony's Bravia Smart Stick is reportedly priced at $150. But Variety says Sony will offer more content apps, including access to Amazon Video, Wal-Mart's Vudu, Redbox Instant by Verizon, AOL On, and its own Crackle and Video Unlimited. Chromecast works with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Music. Google has also promised more apps like Pandora are coming soon.
We caught up with Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, to get his take on the new Sony dongle. Like the Chromecast, he told us, the Smart Stick should help bring an array of broadband video to the television, in this case, Sony's TVs.
"Like the Roku stick, the Sony stick is based on a standard called MHL (Mobile Hi-Definition Link)," Rubin said. "This means it doesn't need an extra cable to draw power. However, it works with a limited set of TVs. In this case, it may work only Sony TVs."
As Rubin sees it, the Bravia Smart Stick should offer a greater variety of services and apps than the Chromecast, but the Chromecast has resonated by attacking a few popular services at an aggressive price.
"It's not so much what it does, which can be achieved with a variety of products, but how it does it," he said. "The Sony stick is more of a size reduction of what Sony has already done with its Google TV devices, but shows the potential of getting a broadband TV option into a small package."
The Viacom Factor
Google has been focusing on Chromecast's lower price as well as its competitive differentiator: Unlike other streaming solutions, you can still multitask. In other words, you can still send emails or surf the web while you watch the content streaming to your TV. It's not clear if the Bravia Smart Stick will offer this option.
If Sony's deal with Viacom goes through, it would be a major score against Google. Viacom is behind many popular cable channels, from MTV and Nickelodeon to Comedy Central, BET and more. These and other channels would appear on an Internet TV service Sony is reportedly developing.
No matter who wins, the Internet TV battle could have a profound impact on cable TV providers. According to research from The Diffusion Group, about 7 percent of pay TV subscribers are likely to cancel their subscription services in the next six months. Of those who had connected their TVs to the Internet, nearly 9 percent said they were highly likely to cut the cord. That compares with 3.5 percent of those who had not connected their televisions to the Internet.
Posted: 2013-10-17 @ 10:02pm PT
Amazon has the best prices on the Google Chromecast!