At their CES press event Sunday evening, Sony announced plans to offer an IPTV service, which means providing video content over the Internet. Some models of the Bravia line will accept special modules that will allow you to connect the set directly to a broadband Internet connection, without the need for a separate PC.
The service will stream video content to the television from the Internet, and you can choose the content you using the TV’s remote control. Streaming means that you do not have to download the content to a hard drive first for playback. And Sony intends to stream high-definition content as well as standard definition.
A new on-screen menu system makes it as easy to select the Internet content as it is to change channels. The initial content partners are AOL, Yahoo!, and Grouper, which will provide viewers access to a wide range of broadcast content as well as user-generated material. You will even be able to aggregate content using RSS feeds, so you can create a custom “channel” that reports the latest news, weather, and traffic reports. The best part of all is that the service will be free. (It appears that there will be advertising mixed in with some of the content, which presumably is how the service will be funded.)
The one catch is that this service apparently will be only available to owners of certain Sony TVs, who presumably have opted to pay for the extra module. This would seem to limit the number of people who will use it, which it turn has implications for funding it through advertising.
All the same, this is excellent news for fans of IPTV. Sony’s endorsement of the concept goes a long way towards validating the concept, and they have also helped by establishing the expecation that these services can be made available for free, just like broadcast television. This could be a big boost for all IPTV services that are trying to get a toehold in American living rooms.