A sneak peek at Sony’s PlayStation Vue internet TV service

19 Comments

Sony may have just shuttered its music service, but it’s getting ready to launch another media venture: PlayStation Vue, the company’s upcoming live TV service, is supposed to launch before the end of the quarter. Sony has been testing the service with a limited number of users in New York since late last year, but in recent days, the company has been inviting a number of new users to this beta test, suggesting that a launch may be coming soon.

Sony announced its intentions to start an internet TV service at CES 2014, and then officially unveiled its name and launch plans last November. At the time, the company also shared some highly polished screen shots to show off how Vue will look like. With new users getting added to the service, those pictures are being augmented by much-needed real-world experiences.

One user, who declined to be identified for this story, shared a few snapshots and first impressions with me that give us a better picture of Vue, and how it differs from the recently soft-launched Sling TV service. I asked Sony for comment, but haven’t heard back yet.

PlayStation Vue

The programming: Sony announced in recent months that it has struck agreements with CBS, NBC and Fox as well as Viacom, Scripps and Discovery for Vue. Asked which channels this has brought to the service, my source told me the following:

“Spike, CBS, NBC, Fox, My9, Telemundo, American Heroes, Animal Planet, BET, BET Gospel, Big Ten network, Bravo, CBS Plus, Centric, Chiller, Cloo, CMT Pure Country, CNBC, CNBC World, Comedy Central, Cooking Channel, Cozi TV, Destination America, Discovery Channel, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, DIY, E!, Esquire, Exits, Food Network, Fox College Sports (3), Fox Sports 1,2,3, FX, FXM, FXX, Golf Channel, HGTV, Investigation Discovery, LOGO, Movies TV, MSNBC, MTV (Hits, Jam, 2, U), Nat Geo, all the Nickelodeons, OWN, Oxygen, Palladia, Science, Sprout, SYFY, Teen Nick, Travel, TV Land, Universal, USA, Velocity, VH1, Vh1 Classic, Soul, YES Network.

No real big surprises on that list. Sports fans will appreciate the number of sports channels, but the one most sports fans really want to have — ESPN — is obviously missing. Also, it looks like Sony signed really big bundles with all of the programmers, forcing it to carry numerous channels with very small audiences. Seriously, I had to google a number of them to even figure out what they were.

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The UI: Sony has been previewing a very polished UI that combines content galleries with large cover art wallpaper. That’s definitely part of the UI, but Sony is also offering a much more traditional channel guide, with a twist: Instead of listing all channels in a left column, Vue is grouping them in a header row, and then listing shows by time in columns underneath. Kind of like a cable guide turned on its side, if you will.

Other than that, I’ve been told that the interface is “very snappy,” very easy to use and “very PlayStation 4 store-esque.”

The rights: One of the big issues that came up with the launch of Sling TV were the varying rights assigned to each channel. Some networks let users rewind and watch shows from the past 72 hours, but most didn’t. That doesn’t seem to be an issue with PlayStation Vue, at least from what I’m hearing so far. The service allows users to catch up on shows for up to three days, and also “record” episodes on its cloud DVR for up to 28 days. Users can add any show to their list of “my shows” and then access past episodes quickly, making them much less dependent on the channel grid, or schedule in general for that matter.

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The price: Sony hasn’t said how much Vue will cost, and it hasn’t given current beta testers any additional information about this either. Reports in the past have indicated that the company could charge between $60 and $80 for the bundle, at which point it wouldn’t be a whole lot cheaper than traditional cable. That’s largely due to those big bundles Sony is buying from programmers in order to get crown jewels like those broadcast channels and cable networks like Comedy Central.

The big question is whether that will fly with users, many of whom are looking for an alternative to cable exactly because it is a big, expensive bundle, forcing them to pay for many channels they don’t actually watch. Asked whether he’d pay for Vue, a beta tester told me: “I would pay for this service if they let you pick channels al a carte.”

My guess is that’s not the answer Sony was hoping for.

19 Comments

joel carter

Playstation vue is almost the same as netflix why pay $60-$80 when you can get netflix for$8 a month I got netfilx and amazon prime $16 a month I’m happy with that

TauruSyn

I, myself, have no issue with commercials during live tv. It’s marketing, I get it but to start the price point off that high is not good when you’re looking to attract the cable consumer fed up with high prices forced down their throats.

I’ve tried Sling Tv, liked the idea of it but my problems with it was the price at $20 with so few channels …then they added more channels after the 7day trial but they were as $5 add on packages which seemed trivial because they were more channels with more commercials. The EPIX package, minus Sundance & WE tv, I’d pay the $5 extra because they’re movies with no commercials but even DISH, the parent company, has a $20 special with 55 channels for 12 months.

To all streaming pseudo cable companies, give potential customers more channels for a better price & build a better customer base without charging for add ons of channels with commercials.

limboaz

Sling works because it’s only $20 for the base service (which is fairly decent with the addiction of AMC) and $5 for the add-on mini bundles, and they will be adding more tempting $5 add-ons in the future. Looks like Sony went the traditional route with mega bundles of channels and a high price tag. My prediction is this will be a fail for Sony, especially since most people have usage caps on their Internet. There will no reason to switch to Vue.

sheshechic

I currently pay $85 which includes all channels plus HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax. If I’m going to replace cable and my tivos it has to be a better value. I really want to cut this cord and Sling is more attractive than Vue which, like cable, is charging for channels I don’t want.

Brett

$60-$80 is too much if it includes commercials. Drop the commercials and you might have something worth buying for that price.

John

AMC, ESPN, and HBO are the three they’ll need for us to make the change

Brenda Robbins

I love that you get BET BET Gospel OWN!!! as well as Investigation Discovery but no AMC is a let down other than that that’s all I watch

Alex Melman

$60 – $80 is way too much. I currently pay $80 for cable TV service with no premium channels, so why would I want to cut the cord just to pay the same amount and not be able to use my own DVR?

SlingTV has the right idea. Offer a couple of popular channels for a low price ($20). Playstation Vue, on the other hand, offers a lot of channels, many of which look like filler, and for a high price. This is exactly what I’m trying to get away from.

rw_ga

But isn’t the Sling TV service $20 per device/connection per month. I have multiple TVS and devices, so if I want to watch something different than my wife or children, I would have to have 3 accounts??? $60 monthly for less channels!!!

adrian

if the price is right im fully on board. i dont have cable so i just stream tv and having this would be a huge plus

Terrence Thayer

No history channel and no AMC is a big let down for me..but i must admit if the price is right this would be very intriguing. …

Jed aka Papa D

So what channels do we NOT get? I don’t think we get AMC or CNN with PS Vue. What else? CNN is a biggie for me and because of The Walking Dead, AMC is a must for many.

Tim Tringle

So how is sony NOT going to get sued over the Cloud DVR? Time Warner or whomever, got sued into dropping the same feature when they tried it some years back. Really hate when Content providers stop progress for years because of their greed.

tjaldid

They signed a deal with those networks so they have the legal rights

mike

Sony also has a powerful sales device in the PS4. Perhaps it will offer up bundle deals. A year of service and a PS4 at some discount, or the like.
However it will encounter a problem if the service is available only on PS4 as you woulnd’t be able to have multiple televisions around the house without paying out $400 for a PS4 for each one.
I’d bet they might have an Android TV interface at least, to work on their Bravia Smart TVs this year. However, it looks as though only pricier model TVs will have Android TV built in. So I’m not sure if that is much better. Hopefully they will provide an Android TV app for any compatible device, as well as Roku, etc…

Jed aka Papa D

You can buy a PlayStation TV aka PS Vita TV for like $90 or so and they play PS Vita games, PS Now games, have a few apps for now (more coming later), and the big thing is that you can stream games from your PS4 through this tiny little device. Go check it out. ;-) It’s a great choice instead of buying a separate PS4 for a bedroom or w/e other room.

mike

The problem might be that it’s in the middle. It could get by with fewer channels than cable if it was cheaper or had ‘just’ the channels people really wanted. However, I think it could also get by if it were as expensive as cable – if it offered a better experience. And let’s face it. It wouldn’t be hard to offer a better experience than most cable co. DVRs, which notoriously suck.
However there are a few very popular channels missing here. Turner Classive Movies comes to mind.
I’m also very curious to see if you can really FF through all these channels for 3 days after airing or if moved to your cloud DVR. My cable box ‘on-demand’ features are nearly worthless because so many have removed the ability to FF. I generally never use them due to this. I certainly wouldn’t switch to any service that had this issue on main channels.

jay

The problem with Vue, Sling TV and other similar offerings is that you can’t fast forward through commercials like you can with a satellite or cable DVR.

Bob Ferreira

You would be able to with this as, according to the article, it will have “catch-up” capabilities and the ability to store the shows in your cloud. So, theoretically, you’d be able to fast-forward through those just like you can with DVR’d TV through your current provider.
It’s not like you can watch a live show and skip the commercials.

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