Sony’s Will Smith Stream Dreams

The Will Smith super-hero actioner Hancock hasn’t even hit theaters yet, but Sony already has big plans for the movie’s debut in your home. The company announced a new service that will deliver movies like Hancock directly to Internet-connected TV sets without the need for a set-top box or heck, even a cable or satellite subscription.

The move is part of Sony’s overall vision to enable video downloading services to all of its main products like the PS3 (which has a video content service launching this summer), PCs and portable media devices.

Who wins and who loses when Sony skips straight to the consumer? The answer is complicated.

Of course, it all hinges on the content Sony is able to deliver. Sony also owns a movie studio, so yes, it has access to potential hits like Hancock (though early reviews of the movie are not promising). But it also has stinkers like 88 Minutes. It will need to get big consumer adoption before it will be able to get other studios on board.

As Pali Research points out, Cable companies could lose out on VOD revenue as people just order up a flick direct from Sony. But those films will be delivered via broadband, so the cable ISPs could just charge more by metering access. At the same time, Sony is in bed with the cable companies by committing to the tru2way initiative that puts interactive TV applications (like DVRs and games) right on the TV.

My wife would love a house in which there are no boxes or wires connected to the TV, so the idea of getting movies direct to television the could doom my plan to buy an Apple TV (or a Zv, or a Roku or one of the zillion other boxes). But I’m not plunking down the cash for a box-free teevee until I see the content.

Then there’s the head-to-head competition Sony will get from Panasonic, and its net-enabled TV, which will offer many of the same services (except for Hancock, presumably).

But the biggest issue could be Sony itself. The company can be its own worst enemy. Sony creates nice consumer electronic devices but has a history of proprietary formats, bad software and horrible UI.