Sony signs up Viacom for internet TV service, but at what cost?

Sony’s upcoming internet TV service got its first major content injection Wednesday, with Sony announcing that it has struck a deal to add 22 networks from Viacom to the service’s channel lineup. The deal will also give Sony TV subscribers access to Viacom’s TV Everywhere apps and video-on-demand services.

This is the first time that [company]Viacom[/company] has struck a deal with an internet-based TV service for its content, which will include networks like MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, VH1 and Spike, but also lesser-known networks like VH1 Soul, BET Gospel and Palladia.

In other words: [company]Sony[/company] got the whole package — and that may be a problem: As companies like Sony and Dish prepare to launch internet-based TV services, they’re struggling to figure out how to differentiate themselves from traditional pay TV, which younger viewers are fleeing because of high costs and inflexible channel bundles.

No one in the industry seems to be ready for a real pick-and-chose type unbundled service, but even traditional cable operators have long tried to only get the popular networks their viewers are actually watching, as opposed to the take-it-or-leave it bundles like the one that Viacom is now selling Sony.

The fact that Sony had to pay for all 22 channels sets a precedent for its deals with other networks, and virtually guarantees that Sony’s final line-up of channels will look very much like your average cable or satellite TV subscription today, complete with the hefty price tag — which will make it that much harder for the service to actually get people to subscribe.