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PlayStation Vue, Sony's streaming television service, took a major hit yesterday, losing all local channels for viewers in dozens of markets under the Sinclair umbrella. In short, folks in certain markets can't watch channels like ABC or Fox live through the service.
This news comes to us from Polygon, who managed to get in touch with representatives from both Sony and Sinclair heading into the weekend. Sinclair's stance on the matter is more aggressive, stating that Sony was unable to fulfill part of their contractual obligations and, due to a small subscriber base, they do not expect to see an impact from axing the live service from Vue customers. They even went so far as to recommend folks who are unhappy with the move switch to a service like YouTube TV, which still carries the stations dropped by Sony.
Just so we're clear on the scope of this news, the Sinclair Broadcast Group includes stations like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, or about 24 channels spread across 23 markets. The company is the largest operator of local television stations in the nation, a dominance that will only grow following recent and ongoing deals.
If you're a Vue subscriber in a Sinclair market, this means you likely lost access to some of those channels at the start of May. To be clear, that's access to live streaming. As Sony points out, most of those channels are still available as an on-demand option, meaning you can watch all of your favorite shows a day after they appear on live TV. The real problem is for folks who like to watch the local news and live sports, neither of which are typically made available through on-demand options. Sony is working to get a new live stream of channels established but, for now, many Vue subscribers are having to deal with the major change.
Sony didn't do themselves any favors by keeping the recent purging of channels under wraps until the last minute. Some folks are reporting that their notification email arrived just an hour before the channels lost their live feed, and no useful details were actually provided.
For folks who don't care about live broadcasts, this probably doesn't seem like a big deal. Then again, those folks likely subscribe to services like Netflix or Hulu rather than PlayStation Vue. The big draw of a service like Vue is that it allows you to cut cable out of the picture and only subscribe to the channels that you want. Some folks are afraid to drop cable, though, because of the live broadcasts such as daily sporting events. If Vue can no longer offer "the best of both worlds" with on-demand and streaming for many of its markets, that's clearly a big hit for Vue and will likely cost them some customers.