People looking for alternatives to cable TV have a new option: Sony's PlayStation Vue streaming TV service, which will now be offered nationwide. For the moment, though, most cities will not receive timely broadcasts from the four big networks.
To date, PlayStation Vue was available in only seven major markets. But it will soon expand to 200-plus locations at a subscription rate starting at $30 a month.
When we reviewed Sony's streaming TV service in June 2015, it had a lot of content to offer, not to mention a cloud-based DVR that let you record shows—a feature services such as Sling TV lacked. But the $50- to $70-a-month pricetag didn't promise consumers big savings when compared to many cable plans.
Two weeks ago, though, Sony cut those prices by $10. And now it's added about $10 more in savings for those markets without the live network programming. To access primetime content from ABC, Fox, and NBC, subscribers in those areas will have to rely on on-demand offerings, which usually provide replays within 24 hours of the original broadcast. Sony says it expects to also add programming from CBS—which has its own pay streaming service, CBS All Access—in “select TV markets” at a later date.
Negotiating the rights to live broadcasts from local affiliates can be a contentious and time-consuming process; this may explain why PlayStation Vue has so far been limited to Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. It may also explain why Sony has decided to launch the streaming TV service nationally without securing such agreements. According to the company, updates on its content offerings will be posted on the PlayStation Vue website.
Three Skinny Service Tiers
The new plans all include the cloud-based DVR and the ability to stream content to multiple TVs or mobile devices at once. By contrast, Sling TV, the skinny streaming TV service most like PlayStation Vue, limits its subscribers to a single device for $20 a month.
In the press release announcing the new services, Sony says Vue requires no additional set-top box fees and no long-term contract. Here's a breakdown of the plans:
• The Access Slim ($30 per month) offers more than 55 channels featuring live cable TV, movies, and sports.
• The Core Slim ($35) has more than 70 channels. That includes all those from the Access Slim package and more from live national and regional sports networks.
• The Elite Slim ($45) has more than 100 channels: everything in the Core Slim plan, plus extra movie and entertainment channels.
Earlier this month, Sony addressed a service shortcoming by adding ABC, ESPN, and Disney to its streaming TV packages, which had already provided content from AMC, Discovery Communications, Scripps Networks Interactive, Turner Broadcasting, and Viacom. Premium channels such as Showtime and Fox Sports can be added as a la carte options.
In addition to using PlayStation 3 and 4 game consoles, you can access the PlayStation Vue service via the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick media players and iPads and iPhones loaded with the PlayStation Vue mobile app. Chromecast is also an option when used with a compatible iOS device.
This announcement from Sony comes at a time when TV viewing options are rapidly expanding. AT&T recently said it will launch a streaming DirecTV service that doesn't require a satellite dish later this year and cable companies such as Comcast have been experimenting with online TV packages.
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