Sony's 'Powers' Move: Will PlayStation Become a TV Hub?

Sony Playstation TV Hub - P 2014

Sony Playstation TV Hub - P 2014

Is the decision to stream the comic book adaptation a one-off experiment or the first sign of a new, Netflix-style content player?

This story first appeared in the April 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The battle for living room dominance has another combatant, but what does it mean for Hollywood?

In an effort to expand beyond video games, Sony's PlayStation will stream the comic book adaptation Powers, produced by sibling Sony Pictures Television, in an exclusive series run on media service PlayStation Network.

The move has the creative community wondering whether Powers is a one-off experiment or the first sign of a new, Netflix-style content player. "No one is really sure that they will become a real buyer," says one digital executive, comparing PlayStation's efforts to those of Microsoft's Xbox, which backed up its promise of original programming with a Santa Monica studio of more than 150 people that boasts TV veteran Nancy Tellem at the helm.

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"It's exciting any time there are potential new platforms, especially when it's a major player like Sony," says Corey Moss, senior vp digital entertainment at Principato Young, who reps talent in digital content deals.

Sony declined to comment on its plans, but Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton hinted at last summer's E3 convention that the goal for PlayStation is to become a hub for TV content "tailored specifically for gamers." Ostensibly, PlayStation doesn't need a studio when it can work with its corporate sibling, but a full-service provider likely would need to buy from outside suppliers.

Powers, an ambitious project based on the Brian Michael Bendis comic, has been in development for years and at one point landed a pilot at FX, prompting network chief John Landgraf to say in 2012 that it was "as difficult an adaptation as I've ever worked on." (FX later passed on the pilot and let the project go.)

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But the challenging material could be a calling card for a new provider. "You kind of have to come out of the gate with something big like this now," notes Moss. "The bar's been set pretty high."

Sony says PlayStation Network already includes 30 million connected consoles, but critics question whether the audience is there. "It has yet to be proved that gamers will base a console purchase on the availability of exclusive television content," says Wedbush Securities media and gaming analyst Michael Pachter. "I don't think that they will until Sony or Microsoft has a hit, and that will take a lot of time."