Sony's Playstation Vue television service launched Wednesday in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. The impressive-looking alternative to cable or satellite TV includes most broadcast and cable networks as well as a cloud-based DVR that can viewed on your PS4, PS3, and at some point in the future, on your iPad.
The programming comes in three tiers (listed below), at prices ranging from $49.99 to $69.99 per month.
But there are some programming gaps. The Disney-owned networks, including ABC, Disney, ABC Family and ESPN aren't available yet. AMC is also missing, although it should be included "within weeks."
As of now, Playstation Vue is only available for viewing via a Playstation gaming console, although an iPad version is reportedly on the way. Another quirk is that while up to three individual streams can be viewed simultaneously per account, only one of the streams can be provided by a PS4, which makes the iPad app a real necessity for families.
One of the best features of the Playstation Vue is the cloud-based DVR function. Unlimited shows can be recorded and saved for up to 28 days. But even better, some channels include "catch-up rights," which means that you can watch any show that has aired in the past three days. It's a feature similar to one provided on some of the channels carried on the Dish Network's Sling TV service.
The hit-and-miss availability of the "catch-up feature" is one of the odd legal hoops that Sony had to jump through to get Vue up and running. While not every network allows the three-day catch-up window, if you "favorite" the show in advance of its airing, the cloud-based DVR will save the recording for 28 days.
Here are the currently available tiers and their prices:
Access Programming Tier - Price: $49.99
Viewers can start enjoying more than 50 of the most popular channels of live TV, movies, and sports with PlayStation Vue’s basic starter package.
Broadcast: CBS, CBS Plus, Cozi TV, Exitos, FOX, MyNetwork, NBC, Telemundo.
Cable Networks: Animal Planet, BET, Bravo, Cartoon/Adult Swim, CBS, CMT, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, Destination America, Discovery Channel, Discovery Family, DIY, E!, Esquire, Food Network, Fox Business, Fox News Networks, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2, FX, FXX, HGTV, HLN, Investigation Discovery, MSNBC, MTV, MTV2, Nat Geo, NBC Sports Network, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, OWN, Oxygen, Science, Spike, Syfy, TBS, TLC, TNT, TruTV, Travel Channel, TV Land, USA Network, VH1. AMC will be available in April.
Core Programming Tier - Price: $59.99
Core includes all Access package channels, plus the following local sports channels for select markets.
Cable Networks: BTN, Golf Channel, TCM.
New York Only: YES Network.
Philadelphia Only: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.
Chicago Only: Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
Elite Programming Tier - Price: $69.99
Elite provides the ultimate PlayStation Vue experience, and includes all channels from Access and Core packages, plus the following lifestyle, music, and family channels.
Cable Networks: American Heroes, BET Gospel, Boomerang, Centric, Chiller, Cloo, CMT Pure Country, CNBC World, Cooking Channel, Discovery Fit & Health, FOX College Sports Atlantic, FOX College Sports Central, FOX College Sports Pacific, FXM, LOGO, MTV Hits, MTV Jams, mtvU, Nat Geo Wild, PALLADIA, Sprout, TeenNick, Universal, Velocity, VH1 Classic, VH1 Soul.
There are some odd quirks in the way the programming tiers are arranged. For some reason, the Turner-owned classic movie channel TCM is stuck in the sports tier. And many of the "lesser" small cable networks that cater to kids such as Boomerang, Sprout and Teen Nick require an Elite Tier package to view, which would also require paying for a lot of sports programming you may or may not care about.
On the upside, other than the Disney-owned networks, Vue does seem to carry nearly every major (and minor) cable network that most families would care about.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
While the Playstation Vue system isn't any cheaper than a typical cable package, there aren't any contracts, which is a plus. And in the case of most major cable systems, you're probably paying for one or more DVRs and that's included in the tier price with Vue. Right now, it's a great choice for a hardcore Playstation enthusiast although for everyone else it's more of an indication of what's to come than a viable television option.