Image source: Sony/PlayStation.
Sony's (NYSE: SNE) PlayStation Vue streaming service has now been live for about 18 months, but it's just in the past few that it's really become a leading service. Plans for the PS Vue range from $30 to $65 for the most premium version, depending on your market and whether the package can include more local programming, with the ability to add standalone channels for an additional charge.
With so many similar products on the market, such as DISH Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) Sling TV and AT&T's (NYSE: T) upcoming DirecTV Now, as well as lower-cost on-demand services such as Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Amazon.com's (NASDAQ: AMZN) Prime, is PlayStation Vue worth its relatively high cost?
PlayStation Vue at a glance
At the highest level, PlayStation Vue offers more than 100 channels, including crowd pleasers such as ESPN, CNN, and HBO, as well as other options such as ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox -- in many markets including local programming. Most recently, the service added NBA TV, BBC America, VICE. and more local programming.
As of Nov. 11, PlayStation Vue has cut all Viacom channels from the service at all levels, which includes such stations as Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon. PS Vue spokespeople say that they will "continue to expand the PlayStation Vue service by adding devices and networks that are highly requested by our fans." On-demand episodes and movies are available from some networks, though availability is inconsistent and paltry compared with something like Netflix.
Other than channel and network changes, PS Vue has also made streaming its services easier than ever, not just on the PlayStation consoles. This year, Sony has added the option to stream PlayStation Vue services on Roku, Android TV, and other inexpensive app-based streaming devices, as well as simply through an internet browser. Other unique features include simultaneous streaming and a cloud-based DVR that will automatically record all shows that you select as favorites and keep episodes for 28 days.
PS Vue has a few surprise features that make it fun to use, such as a "mini-player" that shrinks to the corner of the screen while you continue searching content. One other feature that could be unique to PS Vue soon is the ability to watch movies or other content with PlayStation's new virtual-reality headset that works exclusively with the PlayStation 4 console.
There are three main categories within the network-watching universe -- full cable subscriptions, services that offer skinny-bundle live TV as well as on-demand viewing (such as PS Vue), and those that offer only on demand streaming such as Netflix. What really makes PS Vue attractive is that it's a pay-as-you-go service that offers much of the best of both worlds.
|Service||Price Range||Date Launched||Why It Looks Good|
|PlayStation Vue||$30-$65/month||March 2015||Use on gaming console and various devices or browsers; wide range of network options; cloud-based DVR and potential VR ability soon.|
|Sling TV||$20-$40/month||January 2015||Cheapest live streaming option, including Apple TV, which PS Vue is not currently supported on.|
|DirecTV Now||$35/month*||Late November 2016*||Likely broad selection of networks, relatively low price, potential advantages in with pending AT&T-Time Warner merger.|
|Netflix||$8-12/month||2007 (streaming version)||Massive universe of shows (full seasons) and movies, as well as top-rated original content.|
|Amazon Prime||$99/year||2011||Most benefits of Netflix, plus relatively inexpensive as part of a Prime membership that includes streaming music and free two-day shipping.|
Data source: Company websites. *Estimated based on media reports.
PS Vue has some great advantages, such as its ability to stream through multiple devices and the cloud-based DVR that's easy to use. Features that work well with PlayStation's new virtual-reality system could also make it stand out in this industry for early adopters of the hardware. While PS Vue's top price point isn't much less than a typical cable subscription, it does come with more features, as well as a pay-as-you-go contract that can be ended at anytime without penalty.
For most consumers who want to cut the cable and still want live streaming of sports and most news, PlayStation Vue's lower-cost packages, perhaps in conjunction with a service like Amazon Prime that still has a wide array of full seasons and movies. makes sense. No big bill; no contract hassle.
Why PlayStation looks good for Sony
Sony faces a lot of competition in this space, each upgrading content and features in an arms race to attract cord-cutters. Even with so much competition and such an unsure future landscape, it makes sense for Sony to continue pushing its PS Vue for more adoption. So far, the company seems to be doing just that,
PlayStation has been a major win for Sony, not only as one of the top gaming consoles in the market since it was first introduced in 1994, but it could be more important to the company than ever. Gaming is only a small part of Sony's overall revenue now, about 20% of total sales in the most recent quarter, but PlayStation's ability to help Sony continue to build out its home entertainment, media network, and ultimately virtual-reality segments looks very good for Sony long-term.
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