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Sony Mulling Internet Rival to Pay TV Operators

Howard Stringer
Chris Goodney/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The service would beam TV networks over the Internet to Sony devices in the U.S., including PlayStation gaming consoles, TV sets and Blu-ray players.

NEW YORK - Sony Corp., led by chairman and CEO Howard Stringer, is mulling the launch of an Internet competitor to pay TV operators, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation.

The conglomerate has reached out to several big media and entertainment companies, including Comcast-controlled NBCUniversal, Journal parent News Corp. and Discovery Communications, for rights negotiations that would allow it to carry their TV networks over the Internet to Sony devices in the U.S., it said. Such devices include PlayStation gaming consoles, Internet-enabled Sony TV sets and Blu-ray players.

Sony has sold about 18.1 million PlayStation 3 consoles in the U.S. alone, according to research firm NPD Group, the Journal highlighted. As the largest U.S. cable operator, Comcast had about 22.4 million video subscribers as of the end of September.

A Sony spokeswoman declined comment early Wednesday.

The Journal cited one person familiar with the situation as saying that Sony doesn't look to offer the same bundles of channels that pay TV operators offer, but could instead start out with niche channels.

Sony's hope to license a smaller bundle of networks could be a hurdle in talks with channel owners, which prefer to offer all their networks and would likely not be willing to anger existing distributors.

Sony has more flexibility in its approach as it owns a movie and TV studio, but doesn't own a major U.S. TV network like its fellow entertainment conglomerates that would be affected by pay TV subscribers dropping their monthly cable or satellite service.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai