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SCOOP: PlayStation Vue Extends Deals to Avoid Blackout on Major Networks

Jason Gurwin

Earlier this month, we reported that PlayStation Vue had content deals with AMC, Turner (TNT, TBS, CNN), Discovery, and NBCUniversal (Bravo, E!, USA, CNBC) expiring at the end of June. With the deals set to expire last weekend, we’ve learned that PlayStation Vue has reached deals with a majority of the media companies. There is optimism though that there will be no substantive change to their channel lineup.

It is extremely common for these deals to go down to the wire, with most being resolved without issue. However, some were concerned because in April, PlayStation Vue was unable to come to an agreement with NESN which saw the channel dropped from their service. In the past, the service has had disputes with Sinclair Media Group which so locals disappear for a few months and Viacom which had their channels removed in November 2016.

We got insight into how PlayStation Vue and one of the partners, WarnerMedia, were thinking about the expiring deal in a discussion between Dwayne Benefield, GM of PlayStation Vue and Alex Gonzalez, SVP of Brand Distribution, WarnerMedia at the TVOT Conference in San Francisco.

PlayStation Vue’s Benefield shared that he believed the days of annual increases in content is over. “Consumers are saying enough is enough,” exclaimed Benefield. “If you look at the programmers, there’s an assumption…that they’re going to continue to drive increases in affiliate programming fees to help support their cash flows, which gets passed down to distributors, which are then passed down to consumers.”

“Historically, a lot of our relationships with distribution partners were a zero sum game,” said WarnerMedia’s Gonzalez. “A zero sum game worked in a world when live linear TV was growing. Now we’re in a world where we’re trying together, to preserve the business. And at the same time recognize that we can create a win win relationships to go after those consumers that are not necessarily consuming live TV.”

Content disputes are not new to the streaming industry. DIRECTV NOW removed NFL Network from their service last month after their agreement with the channel was not extended. In the last few months, AT&T has also had extended disputes with Viacom and A+E — but were able to come to last minute agreements with the media companies.

PlayStation Vue still has an ongoing negotiation with NFL Network, whose agreement with the service end in July. In the meantime, PlayStation Vue has added channels like beIN Sports, BabyFirst, and moved The Tennis Channel to their lower priced Core Plan.

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