Hands-On with Sony’s PlayStation Vue TV Service

Last week, Sony quietly rolled out a limited beta-test of their new streaming service, PlayStation Vue. While there are already a plethora of ways for consumers to cut the cord while continuing to enjoy entertainment on their big screens — competitive offerings from Amazon & Google come to mind — PlayStation Vue does bring some unique advantages to the streaming game.

Namely, Sony has gone out and made their own deals with both broadcast & cable networks to provide viewers access to both live and on-demand content. Current participating networks include NBCUniversal (USA, Bravo, CNBC), Turner (TBS, TNT, CNN), Discovery (Animal Planet, TLC), and local content from CBS, NBC, and Fox.

Image via Sony

Sony’s PlayStation Vue also features what the company is calling “virtually unlimited DVR”, along with the ability to watch all available episodes of a series via the service’s “Catch Up” option.

Given Chicago (along with Philly & NY) is included in the beta-test for PlayStation Vue, and Sony is offering a 7-day free trial, I took the streaming TV service for a test drive this weekend. Before you try PlayStation Vue for yourself, check out my review, including pros & cons, below.

The Pros

My biggest concern about potentially cutting ties with cable is the general unavailability of live content through most streaming providers — a worry that’s been squashed on PlayStation Vue. I streamed several March Madness games this weekend — in HD quality that was comparable to my current capabilities through AT&T Uverse.

The channel guide is similar to what viewers have come to expect from cable providers; with the differentiator coming by means of unique arrangement. The current channel being viewed is listed first, followed by networks the user has chosen as one of their ‘favorites’. Remaining networks are shown alphabetically, with both upcoming and previous shows listed throughout. Similar to Netflix, users also have the ability to browse & search content by name and genre.

As with favorite channels, viewers have the option of adding their most-watched content to the My Shows menu. My Shows acts as a “smart DVR” of sorts, presenting users with the option to Catch Up on any of their favorite content from one place.

The “Not-So-Pros”

I hate to call any of this a true “con” of Sony PlayStation Vue TV at this point; rather, I’ll just lay out the current drawbacks to put everything on the table.

ABC (and, therefore, ESPN) is absent from this first incarnation of Vue, as is AMC. With Mad Men‘s final episodes kicking off in a few weeks, and The Walking Dead probably as good as it’s ever been, not having AMC for live viewing just isn’t an option for me right now.

Premium channels, like Showtime & HBO, aren’t available either via Vue (nor do I expect them to be) — given HBO Now launches next month, at least cord cutters would still have the option of watching Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley; though, that would come via a separate $15/month charge.

PlayStation Vue’s “Access” Plan

Which brings us to price. Sony is offering three pricing tiers for PlayStation Vue — Access, Core, and Elite — starting at $49.99 a month. The Access plan, honestly, pretty much covers every channel most viewers will be interested in; and, at $20 cheaper than Elite, would give subscribers enough dough left over to shell-out for HBO Now.

The Con

The singular true con which would prevent me from ditching Uverse for PlayStation Vue (even if the latter did offer AMC) is price.

In full disclosure, I currently pay less than $50 per month for Uverse’s 450 package — which gives me access to all local, basic cable, and premium networks. At $49.99 for Vue Access, plus HBO Now, I’d actually be shelling out more per month for PlayStation Vue, while getting less content.

Conclusion

PlayStation Vue TV does offer some advantages over other streaming providers — and, Sony’s agreements with both broadcast & cable networks continue to be hammered out, meaning the content available is only likely to grow. The programming guides and DVR features are intelligent, and the availability of live content means not having to wait until new shows & sporting events go on-demand. PS4 and PS3 owners in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York can try out Vue for a week before making their own decision on whether or not the service is right for them.

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