Towards the fall of 2014, a lot of rumors, which became legit since outlet like Variety and Deadline reported them, were stating that Sony was in talks with multiple cable organization for a cable service through cloud computing, using the PS4 as receiver and DVR, and the bomb in this was the idea that could be the first a-la-carte service. Since then, a very big buzz surrounded Sony. Fast forward, the service rolled out in February in three cities: Chicago, New York and Philadelphia, and the name of such service was revealed to be Playstation Vue. Finally, the night before Sony’s E3 conference, the service officially rollout in Los Angeles and San Francisco, allowing me to finally test such service.
Let’s start with the obvious, and painful, detail: Playstation Vue doesn’t offer a-la-carte channels, except for Showtime, which can be subscribed separately. However, Sony, at its E3 conference, announced the possibility of choosing just the channel that you want will be available soon. As I said before, Showtime is among them, and soon will be also Fox Soccer (both of them, though, are already premium services, which is kinda of a cheat).
Secondly, another painful detail: it’s not cheap. There are 3 plans: Access for $49.99, Core for $59.99 and Elite for $69.99. The big jump we see it between Access and Core, as in the middle package we see the addition of local sports network such as Fox PrimeTime Ticket, and a couple of interesting movie channels as well. The Elite package offers up to 87 channels, which is not too crazy.
Overall, the main channels are all there (Fox, NBC, CBS, TNT, USA, NBCSN, etc.) are all there, but, as said before, if you want local sports channel you have to spend 10 bucks more and get the Core plan, which will give you also BeIN Sports (which is a must if, like me, you follow european soccer). The only notable channels that are missing are The CW, and all the Disney networks like ABC, ESPN and, clearly, Disney Channel. This is a big problem as the reason for me to get cable is to follow the NBA, and if my Clippers are covered through PrimeTime Ticket, a big chunk is missing with ESPN (including the Finals). Sony said is in talks with Disney, and, although the biggest problem seems to be how much they’re asking for their channels, I think the issue is the exclusive deal Disney has with Microsoft for ESPN, although it seems to be limited to the Watch ESPN service as an Xbox exclusive on game consoles, but I guess they’re still looking for some details, and I’m pretty sure sooner or later it will be available.
After having analyzed the price-plan part, let’s start analyze how the PS4 app works: the menu is very user friendly, putting all your favorite channel and shows first on; the channels have no numbers, just names. Every show that you add as favorite, each episode will be DVRed and it will stay available to play in the cloud for 4 weeks (you can DVR movies, too, and each replay will be saved). This system is kind of faulty though, as for example I have WWE Raw among my favorite shows but somehow it fails to register it; yes, I thought it was maybe a problem with WWE itself, but Smackdown is recorded without any problems. I had a similar issue with the third episode of USA’s Mr. Robot, as it wasn’t recorded but a couple of days before airing the fourth episode it popped out. If you subscribe to Showtime as well, all the movies airing on the channels and the property series are available on-demand (the menu for each series though should be divided by season, while right now every episode is on the same line back to back, making it frustrating to find the right episode).
The live TV feed works without any problems as well, offering a perfect 1080p quality image (Internet bandwith allowing, obviously). Once again, the only issue I’ve encountered was the live feed of Raw, which kept pausing and refresh, skipping back and forth. I honestly haven’t contacted the PSVue costumer service yet, but I’ll do soon.
Of course, improvements needs to be done: a stand alone on-demand section without mixing it with DVR content to be added; a better division between sports, series and movies; add a notification when a program you favorite is starting, and maybe insert such notifications into the PS4 OS. Other improvements that should be done is expanding the devices into also PSVita and PlayStation TV, so it would push the sales of those devices (especially the PSTV, which also would boost the PSVue itself, as this devices is relatively cheap).
Another positive detail of the service is that it gives the user access to ‘Watch’ apps like FX Now, USA Now, Watch TNT, Watch TBS, Adult Swim, and others.
Overall, though, the system and service are actually state of the art, probably is so far the best way to experience TV. However, although I’m satisfied, the price and channel offer made it an average solution, so I’m not quite sure if I would suggest it to people, not until a real a-la-carte plan is made available. For sure, Sony, by rolling out this service, is smashing the punch on the ground, shaking the cable environment. Hope they succeed in actually break it.