Sony to Test Cloud-Based Cable Television

In a move that could increase competition and give consumers more cable TV choices, Sony SNE said Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas it planned to start testing a cloud-based TV service in 2014.

The company said the yet-to-be-named service would include live television channels, on-demand episodes, and even cloud-based DVR capability. By calling the new entity “cloud-based TV service” Sony seemed to be attempting to put a consumer-friendly name on the concept. Heretofore it’s been called “virtual MSO” or virtual multiple-system operator, a term that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

Providers such as Comcast CMCSA, DirecTV DTV, and Verizon VZ through its Verizon FiOs operation all offer Internet-based TV viewing options for their customers. Sony’s entry, especially if it includes live television, could give customers the option of subscribing to broadband from one provider and buying their streaming television content from Sony.

Related: 'Streaming Only Cable Service is Coming,' Say Experts

One of the big side benefits of streaming cable is the fact it makes content available on all Internet connected devices, such as computers, tablets, smartphones, game consoles, and others – in addition to household TVs.

Sony's announcement Tuesday is significant and matches up with reports several months ago that Sony and Viacom VIAB had struck a first-of-its-kind deal to stream cable channels. Viacom owns Nickelodeon, MTV, and Comedy Central, as well as several other television networks and film production units.

Sony, of course, would have to sign deals with many more content providers in order to have something that would allow it to wean customers off their current providers. Whether it would be able to do so remained to be seen.

One thing Sony does have is built-in potential subscriber base with 70 million Internet-connected devices in use with more being added every day. In addition, one of Sony’s partners in the new venture that might help its efforts is MLB Advanced Media, the digital component of Major League Baseball.

Meanwhile at CES, Sony also announced its cloud-based game streaming service, which it called PlayStation Now. The new service, Sony said, would allow non-PlayStation console owners to play games on tablets, smartphones, and other devices.

With the concurrent announcements of PlayStation Now and the streaming cable TV test, Sony seemed poised to make good on CEO Kaz Hirai’s vision of “One Sony.”

At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.

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