Cord cutters will finally be able to stream some cable networks without having to, uh, “borrow” a pay-TV subscriber’s login. Viacom is letting Sony’s upcoming cloud TV service to carry at least 22 of its most popular networks. The deal will let Sony OTT subscribers tune into “BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, Spike, TV Land and VH1, BET Gospel, Centric, Logo, CMT Pure Country, MTV Hits, MTV James, mtvU, Palladia, TeenNick, Vh1 Classic and Vh1 Soul and all available in HD,” said a Viacom news release announcing the arrangement. “The deal marks Viacom’s first-ever agreement to provide its networks for an Internet-based live TV and video on demand service.”
Sony’s yet-to-be-named cloud TV service—for convenience’s sake, we’ll call it ‘Sony Cloud TV”—is supposed to provide OTT viewers with the “most popular live TV programs combined with a large library of VOD content,” said Sony Computer Entertainment Group CEO Andrew House at CES 2014 last January. At the time, Sony said that it would pilot the new service sometime in 2014. With the announcement of the deal with Viacom, Sony has not only taken a big step to realizing this goal, but also gained a sizable advantage on other OTT service providers who lack this content. Hulu has some Viacom shows, but getting entire networks is a big deal.
According to Viacom, this deal brings together two titans. It claims that there are more than 75 million Internet-enabled Sony devices in U.S. living rooms today, while “Viacom owns and operates the largest basic cable portfolio in the United States by audience share, including 25.9 percent share of basic cable viewership among young people aged 2 to 34.”
In the OTT streaming marketplace, this last statement is what really matters. Young viewers—who are more prone to forgo cable/satellite in favor of the Web—already like Viacom’s products, from SpongeBob SqaurePants to Jon Stewart. That makes their migration to Sony Cloud TV a potent subscription driver for OTT, and turns online TV into a mass medium that conventional TV producers can no longer ignore.
This point was acknowledged in a backhanded by Philippe Dauman, Viacom’s President and CEO. “Given our young, tech-savvy audiences, our networks are essential for any new distribution platform, and we’re excited to be among the many programmers that will help power Sony’s new service and advance a new era for television,” he said.
The importance of the Viacom/Sony deal for OTT cannot likely be overstated. With one deal, OTT content has gained mainstream programing credibility. This deal changes the television landscape, and is likely to motivate other major TV producers to sign their own OTT distribution deals, in order not to be left out of the action.