PlayStation Vue streams live TV to more devices besides the PlayStation. If this cable replacement system isn’t just for gamers, would it make sense for you? Check out our PlayStation Vue review to see what Sony has to offer to cord-cutters.
Sony launched its internet TV service not too long after Sling TV in 2015. Where Sling TV went nationwide from the beginning, PlayStation Vue slowly rolled out city by city. Sony’s executives also decided in those early years to make PlayStation Vue exclusive to the company’s game console.
By early 2016, Sony changed those policies but not before PlayStation Vue’s growth stalled. Despite its early start, PlayStation Vue is in third place behind Sling TV and DirecTV Now. New services like Hulu with Live TV may catch up soon.
Today, anyone in the United States can subscribe to PlayStation Vue. Sony does apply geo-fencing that limits what you can watch based on your location.
PlayStation Vue defines three zones that determine what you can watch. Devices on your home network have access to everything. If you’re at work or a friend’s place, you lose access to CBS’ on-demand content and live streams from the NHL channel. If you leave town, you lose access to the broadcast networks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. You also lose access to regional sports networks.
PlayStation Vue started releasing apps on devices other than Sony’s game consoles within a year of its original launch. Supported streaming boxes include the Apple TV, Roku, Google Chromecast and the official version of Android TV. You can find PlayStation Vue mobile apps for Amazon’s Fire TV, Android and iOS.
Unsurprisingly, you can get a PlayStation Vue app on Sony’s own televisions, but only those models that use Android TV. Amazon’s Fire TV televisions also support PlayStation Vue.
Plans and Add-ons
Sony takes a good-better-best approach to the PlayStation Vue subscription plans. You get more channels as you step up to each higher-priced plan.
At the Access level, you get what Sony calls “essential” channels. For $45 per month, you get a mix of forty-five news, entertainment, sports and lifestyle channels.
Stepping up to the $50-per-month Core plan adds twenty-five more channels, mostly sports-related. Another step up to the Elite plan gives you access to all of the broadcast and basic cable channels for $60 per month.
The most expensive subscription PlayStation Vue offers is the Ultra plan. For $80 per month, you get HBO and Showtime thrown in.
You can tailor your channel lineup by subscribing to specific channels on their own. Your options include the premium movie channels HBO, Showtime, Epix Hits and Cinemax. Fans of the beautiful game can subscribe to Fox Soccer Plus. Martial arts fans can get the Hi-Yah! Channel.
PlayStation Vue offers two expansion packs that let you add several channels all at once. The Sports Pack adds a dozen national and regional sports channels. The Español Pack includes the Spanish-language version of six channels.
Free Trial, Features and Channels
PlayStation Vue gives new subscribers a five-day trial period to test things out. Any standalone channels you subscribe to will come with a seven-day trial. You get full access to all PlayStation Vue features during the trial period.
Sony doesn’t make it easy
Signing up for the free trial was ridiculously annoying. Sony requires you to set up an account on the PlayStation Network. I already had an account, but PlayStation Vue refused to recognize it in the Chrome browser.
Sony also won’t let you set up your account unless you’re on your home network. That means completing the process through a TV-connected device like the Roku or PlayStation or through a web browser.
You can’t cancel your subscription from any device other than the PlayStation or through a web browser.
The layout of the PlayStation Vue interface changes from platform to platform. I’ll focus on the web app here, but keep in mind that the app you use may be a little different.
Thumbnails for currently-airing shows occupies a row at the top of the screen. Below that, you’ll find your favorite and recently-watched shows.
A dedicated row for Sports organizes current and upcoming games by specific sport. You can scroll through today’s events or any day in the coming week.
Rows for TV Shows, Kids and Movies let you filter titles by genre. These rows include live and upcoming content as well as on-demand content.
Towards the bottom of the Home screen is a row displaying the channels you’ve subscribed to.
The My Shows screen displays the TV series you’ve favorited. Selecting one of the thumbnails takes you to that show’s profile page where you’ll find recorded or on-demand content.
The Channels screen shows a grid of all the channels in your subscription. Selecting the play button on the channel’s thumbnail will start the live stream.
Selecting the channel’s name will take you to that network’s profile page. These pages show a four-hour timeline of upcoming programs, featured shows and shows recommended by PlayStation Vue subscribers.
Some networks customize their profile pages more than others. HGTV, for example, has a row of House Hunters content and a row called “Buying, Flipping and Fixing” that consolidates HGTV’s various property shows.
The Live TV screen serves much the same purpose as the Channels screen. It displays thumbnails of everything that’s airing right now. Where the Channels thumbnails are listed alphabetically by network, the Live TV screen’s layout doesn’t follow any obvious logic. You’ll have to scroll back and forth to find the show you want to watch.
The Guide screen is PlayStation Vue’s take on the traditional cable programming guide. The Guide’s design is bland and functional compared to newer services like YouTube TV. Everything is in various shades of grey and it doesn’t have thumbnails of the content, much less live previews.
Sony mixes it up a bit by making the timeline run from top to bottom. You can scroll up into the past to find on-demand content or scroll down into the future to find upcoming broadcasts.
Sony placed the channels in a row at the top of the Guide. Any channels you’ve favorited appear first so you don’t have to scroll back and forth. The broadcast networks are next in line. If you don’t get the local stations, then these networks form a blank space in the guide. The rest of the channels appear alphabetically.
The iOS version of PlayStation Vue uses Home, My Shows, and Guide. The Apple TV app only has dedicated screens for Home and Guide. Those screens do the same thing as they do in the browser, but I ran into some glitches on the iPad app.
The Home screen has a row of thumbnails that list the TV series I had added to My Shows. Going to the My Shows section, however, brought up message saying that I hadn’t added anything.
When I first opened the PlayStation Vue app, the list of Favorite Channels populated with all the channels I had selected. Later on, however, those channels disappeared.
At another time, the iPad app refused to display anything in the Sports section. It said I needed to upgrade my subscription even though I signed up for the Elite plan.
PlayStation Vue offers a competitive set of features, many of which will appeal to families. The features apply across all of PlayStation Vue’s subscription plans.
Catch-Up and recorded programs
The Catch-Up feature keeps episodes in the PlayStation Vue library for three days after they air. After those three days, a network may keep the episodes in place as on-demand video or remove the video from Sony’s library entirely.
To keep an episode longer, Sony lets you record programs and keep them for twenty-eight days. Unlike some other streaming services, PlayStation Vue lets you record as many programs as you want.
You can’t record a specific episode, though. Adding a TV series to My Stuff tells PlayStation Vue to record every episode as it airs.
The easiest way to find your recorded programs is to go to My Stuff and select the TV series. You’ll find all of the available programs listed together whether live, on demand or recorded.
Some streaming services automatically replace a recorded episode with the on-demand version. PlayStation Vue only does this if the network insists on it.
Each network sets policies for how and when you can fast forward through a show or its commercials.
You have to watch every ad break during Catch-Up and on-demand videos. On the other hand, you can fast forward through most recorded programs.
Sony’s deal with Fox, however, prevents fast forwarding during any program on Fox, FX or FXX.
Profiles and streaming
PlayStation Vue is a great option for families thanks to its support for user profiles. Each PlayStation Vue account can have ten unique profiles. Each family member will their own favorites, My Stuff listings and recorded programs.
While ten people in a household can have their own profiles, they can’t stream PlayStation Vue content at the same time. A five-device cap limits the number of simultaneous streams. PlayStation Vue further limits the number of devices you can use away from home. Only three tablets, smartphones or laptops can connect to Sony’s service at the same time when away from your home network.
As a cable replacement option, Sony’s service checks a lot of boxes. PlayStation Vue offers local TV stations and many of the most popular cable channels.
PlayStation Vue landed in the middle of the pack when we reviewed internet TV services’ support for local TV. In the thirty largest TV markets, Sony had the rights to stream only 79% of the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC stations.
I got none of them. That meant watching live coverage of sports or my local news weren’t options.
When this happens, PlayStation Vue replaces the live feed with an on-demand channel. Except for CBS. PlayStation Vue offers CBS live streams in markets like Houston or Chicago. Markets that don’t get the local feed, however, don’t get CBS on-demand content either.
Entertainment, lifestyle and information
The full lineup of more than eighty channels gives you a lot of options. Even with the entry-level Access plan, you’ll get many of the most popular channels.
Syfy, TBS and AMC are among the entertainment-focused channels that come with all four subscription plans. The higher-priced plans add content from the Hallmark Channel, IFC and the Sundance Channels.
The Travel Channel, Food Network and HGTV come with every plan. Paying more only gets you second-tier options like Cooking Channel and diy.
All of the cable news networks are part of PlayStation Vue’s baseline offering. BBC World News and CNBC World are the few news channels that come with the premium plans.
Although you’ll need the Elite plant to get all of them, PlayStation Vue offers all of the sports channels that ESPN, NBC and Fox have to offer. The major league MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA join the Golf and Olympics channels for sport-specific coverage. You also get the computer-gaming channels Machinima and Ginx.
Watching live TV
When using a browser, PlayStation Vue’s video player has controls for skipping ten seconds forward and backward and rewinding to the beginning of a program. Those controls may or may not work depending on what you watch. You can toggle the video quality between automatic, high definition and standard definition. Other controls let you minimize and maximize the video player.
The Apple TV app, on the other hand, has none of those controls. If the channel allows rewind and fast forward, you use the remote control to scrub back and forth.
While PlayStation Vue’s streaming performance was usually pretty good, I ran into some recurring glitches. At times a live video stream would freeze and lock up the app. This happened on the Apple TV, which uses an Ethernet connection, and on my laptop over a Wi-Fi connection. Turning it off and turning it on again fixed the problem.
Overall Review: 7.8
PlayStation Vue is a solid choice if you’re looking to reproduce the cable experience. Its selection of channels is second only to DirecTV Now.
There are some inconsistencies you’ll have to put up with like the layout differences between apps.
Channel quality: 9
While some networks like the Smithsonian Channel or The CW aren’t available, PlayStation Vue has the most popular channels on TV today.
Getting local TV stations, however, will be hit or miss depending on where you live.
Streaming quality: 7
During most of my time with PlayStation Vue, the video streams came through cleanly. Some prime time programs had some buffering at the beginning but the picture cleared quickly.
The only serious issue I ran into happened when video streams froze, but that was easily fixed.
Device support: 7
PlayStation Vue sits in the middle of the pack in its support for streaming platforms. On the other hand, the standard ability to stream on five devices at a time outclasses most of PlayStation Vue’s competitors.
The entry-level Access plan’s $40 monthly cost is par for the course among cable replacement streaming services. You get a solid basic cable lineup and (maybe) local TV stations for a good price. Getting all eighty-plus channels only adds another $15 to your monthly bill.
PlayStation Vue was the second streaming TV service to reach the market and its age shows. The dated user interface that varies from app to app doesn’t compare as well to new players like Philo, Hulu and YouTube TV.
PlayStation has a lot of advantages in its channel listings and features, but that won’t be enough to compete for cord-cutters’ TV budgets. Sony took its time turning PlayStation Vue into a national service. Its new competitors, however, work at a much faster pace. Sony will need to step it up if it wants PlayStation Vue to remain competitive.