There Is a Way To Cut The Cord and Watch Local Sports

Yesterday I wrote about ESPN’s decline and how it contributed to Disney’s stock taking a dive after their most recent earnings report. I concluded, to the surprise of some, that major networks like ESPN aren’t as doomed as we might think they are. Sure, they’re losing advertising and subscriber fees in the short-term – from people cutting the cord and no longer unwittingly paying them each month – but the fact remains that there are very few sports fans who can exist without ESPN’s content (mostly their live broadcast coverage), and there has yet to be a reasonable solution for a simple streaming package that gives viewers, especially sports fans, most of the content they currently enjoy.

Many of you weighed in and suggested I check out PlayStation Vue, Sony’s streaming bundle which includes ESPN, local channels, and, in Philly and a few other cities, the regional sports network.

I had heard of Vue before, and was aware that it was actually pretty good, but I mostly dismissed it as a fringe, almost experimental solution for a much younger demo used to consuming content on their gaming machine. That may be the case… however, if you have a PlayStation, Vue is worth considering if you’re thinking about cutting the cord but aren’t sure how.


What is Vue?

Sony, impressively, cobbled together what is essentially a cable package that gets streamed over your PS4, PS3 and other devices (more on those in a second). They’ve succeeded in bringing on a wide range of networks and providers where, thus far, Apple and others have failed. Most notable – if only because they’re missing from most other streaming offerings – is the inclusion of your local broadcast affiliates and, luckily for Philly fans, CSN. Sure, you could always get a tuner for ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX, but that’s yet another step in the fairly confusing process of cutting the cord. Vue includes those channels as part of your package. Having CSN, though, is what really sets it apart. For the first time, you can get a solid streaming package and watch the Phillies, Flyers and Sixers with it. Additionally, all the other channels you may want or “like having” from traditional cable are there– Disney Channel(s), ESPN, FS 1, NBC Sports, cable news outlets, MTV, Food Network, etc. Along with local broadcast affiliates, many of these are the sort of channels you might not pay for individually and would claim that you can do without, but appreciate having at certain times. For example, having CNN, MSNBC and FOX News during an election year is preferable (or maybe not…), being able to turn on local news during weather events is somehow comforting, and sometimes you just want the mindless background noise that ESPN or the Food Network provides (I don’t mean that as an insult to those networks’ stars such as John Barr and Giada… love Giada).


How does it work?

On the surface, it doesn’t function much differently than your Comcast or Verizon cable service. There are three packages to choose from– the middle option, at $45 per month, is probably the sweet spot, but even the base package gives you an impressive lineup.

Voila_Capture 2016-05-12_03-20-43_PM

Everything is streamed live, and there is a familiar guide-style interface just like your cable box has. But even better, you can also explore by genre, intended audience, and more. Vue’s interface isn’t perfect, but it’s very good. Better than I expected. You can also “catch up” on many previously-aired programs. This is sort of halfway between watching live and recording on a DVR. From the guide interface and other spots, you can scroll backwards in time and watch a show that aired an hour ago or three days ago. It will start playing as if you’re watching in real-time (you can’t fast-forward). This includes Phillies games. It’s not available for every program, but is for many of them. You can also “DVR” programs by adding them to your favorite shows. This will record programs, in the cloud, for you to go back and watch just like on a DVR. The reason Vue doesn’t do this for every show, I think, might have something to do with the legal precedent that the viewer has to choose which broadcasts to “record”– meaning, they “own” the content and are free to skip around. I’m not sure on that, but it’s the only explanation I can come up with for why Vue doesn’t just, you know, record every show and provide you with full DVR functionality.


Can I watch Vue on other devices?

You bet your sweet ass you can. You need a PS4 or PS3 to sign up [Edit: It appears you do not need to have a PlayStation to sign up], but you can also watch Vue through Amazon Fire streaming devices and Google Chromecast (no Apple TV), which makes streaming Vue on multiple TVs as simple as buying $39 Fire Stick or Chromecast devices for every room you want to have it in. You can also watch on iOS devices. The catch is that many programs are “mobile restricted,” which means you can only watch them on the aforementioned TV streaming devices. This includes CSN programs. As best as I can tell, this largely applies to NBC-owned properties– CSN, NBC 10, CNBC, NBC Sports, etc. The good news is that most of these networks have standalone apps that allow you to watch on your phone or tablet simply by using your cable credentials… and yes, Vue is included in that list. It really does function very much like a traditional cable package. You can watch ESPN on Vue’s mobile app, or, of course, on ESPN’s excellent mobile app. There are some definite quirks to what you can watch and where (being “outside your home network” seems to block certain things), but everything can be watched on TVs, obvs.

Vue’s FAQ does a really nice job of answering most questions that you may have.


Does it work?

From my limited testing – I was playing dad yesterday and watched it through my PS4 a good chunk of the day, including NBC 10 news and the Phillies game – it works very well! I had no dropouts and very little lag with 75-75 Fios internet. There were two brief hiccups during the Phillies game, but I’m talking minor blips in the feed that were gone before I could even put any thought to it. Your mileage will likely vary depending on what kind of broadband speeds you have, but anything over 25-25 should be fine (though I’d recommend much higher if you decide to cut the cord).


How is the quality?

Here is the one issue. Vue claims it can get 720p at 60 frames per second (TV is typically 30). At times last night it certainly seemed like the Phillies game was getting 60fps. [One reader claimed that’s impossible for live broadcasts, but while I can’t speak to the technical aspects, I know outputs some games at 60 fps starting this season, and what I was seeing on Vue was certainly much smoother than what I see on regular TV… so the effect is the same regardless of if it was technically 60 fps or not (I think it was).] This wasn’t constant, however. The game seemed to jump back and forth between 60 fps and 30 fps. It wasn’t distracting, but noticeable. That, I could live with. What concerned me was the lack of 1080. Flipping back to the Phillies game on CSN, on Fios, which broadcasts in 1080, there was a noticeable difference in quality. Now, I’m a dork about this sort of thing, and if you’re the type of person who isn’t irked by the fact that ESPN and FOX broadcast in 720 whereas NBC and CBS broadcast in glorious 1080, then this might not matter to you. For me, however, it’s a borderline dealbreaker, especially with a good TV. There is certainly nothing wrong with the Vue picture – even if it does take a minute or so to get up to 720 once you switch to a new program – but it doesn’t pop the way your cable picture often does, and certainly doesn’t pop the way some 1080p programs on Netflix or through Apple TV and other devices pop. That was disappointing. But, at no point did I think it was bad enough to be a non-starter. The quality seems reliably decent, but hardly great.


Am I cutting the cord?

Here’s my situation: I’m moving in three weeks. I recently scheduled Fios setup with 100-100 internet, their lowest tier mainstream cable package (not the creatively-curated skinny bundles that compel you to keep spending more), and phone service. The plan costs $80 per month for the first two years. But in addition to that advertised price there are box rental fees, taxes, and other charges that I can only assume go toward harvesting the brains of small children for sheer enjoyment. All in: $150 per month for the first two years for cable, internet, phone, a router rental ($10), three cable box rentals ($12, $12, $10), and one DVR rental ($10).

Here’s the two-year calculation for me, which I think would be a pretty typical scenario for most.

[Few notes: I signed up for three cables boxes. Vue allows you to stream on up to five devices at once. I’ll split the difference and do the math based on four, because I’ll probably need another box anyway. We purposefully didn’t have two bedrooms wired for cable because we figured that if they’re ever filled, whoever is in them won’t need “cable.” With four boxes, we’d put one in the family room, one in my office, one in the master bedroom, and another in one of the spare rooms. I’m not even sure the Fios pricing doesn’t go up in Year 2, but typically you can get the up-front offer for two full years. I’m not including league-specific streaming packages, because they really don’t apply to local sports fans.]


With cable (Fios– taxes and fees not included):

Cable-internet-phone: $1,920

Cable box rentals: $816

DVR rental: $240

Router rental: $240

Netflix: $192

Hulu: $192

HBO Now: $360

Showtime: $264

Amazon Prime (with Instant Video): $200

Total: $4,424 ($184 per month)


With Vue (assuming you already have a PlayStation or Fire TV device):

Internet*: $1,680

Fire TV HD: $100

Two Fire TV sticks or Google Chomecasts: $80

Router rental: $240

Vue: $1,080

Netflix: $192

Hulu: $192

HBO Now: $360

Showtime: $264

Amazon Prime (with Instant Video): $200

Total: $4,388 ($182 per month)
*The 100-100 internet plan is $60 per month, but if I cut the cord and went full streaming, especially working from home and with heavy web use, I’d probably bump up to 150-150, at $70.


As you can see, cord-cutting really isn’t a cost-saving proposition. Cable companies charge essentially the same amount for just internet as they do for cable and internet combined. Where they get you is the box rental fees. Of course, if you cut the cord, those rental charge savings are offset by the cost of the streaming service, not to mention any additional equipment (Fire TV, Chromecast) you might need to buy.


But will I cut the cord?

Here are my considerations:

For Vue: I actually prefer their interface, both on TV and through their app. I like the intangible concept of cutting the cord. Having an essentially unlimited DVR, accessible from all over the house and on mobile devices, is a huge bonus. I love what Sony has done here and think there’s a lot of promise.

For cable: Though I would have to pay about $40 more per month – which is a racket – to get full-house DVR functionality, I prefer the reliability of a cable box over streaming… at this point at least. Video streams are fairly reliable, but I’m still not sure I trust them 100%. Put it this way: I’m glad I was watching the final play of the Villanova-North Carolina game through a cable box. Those moments are few and far between, but missing that live thanks to an ill-timed buffer would have, no joke, had serious psychological effects on me for years to come. The better and more stable picture quality, and the still-more-familiar convention (for everyone– family, guests), are bonuses.

I’m sticking with cable for now.


Will you?

Again, your mileage will vary. You might not need 150-150 internet. Hell, you probably don’t. You might not care about 1080 HD. You might already have three Amazon Fire TV sticks, or a Chromecast. You might own a router. You might not actually care about watching local news or sports (which changes the consideration entirely). With Vue, Sony has created a compelling product that deserves serious consideration from anyone. There is a FREE 7-day trial. It has a lot going for it and is a reasonable alternative to cable. But at the moment, if you want to cut the cord and still be a local sports fan without crazy, confusing, and less-than-reliable workarounds, cutting the cord won’t save you much money.


UPDATE: If you live out-of-market, you can’t get CSN Philly and the local affiliates.

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68 Responses

      1. Could someone outside of Philly use this to get CSN Philly?

        We live in San Diego and have not been able to find a way to get that channel. (MLB Extra Innings lets you watch the Phillies games, but nothing else, and it’s pretty expensive, as you have to pay for access to all the teams/games, not just the Phillies.

        1. MLB.TV is $100 for the entire season. You’ll be blacked out from Padres games but you can watch everything else. Much cheaper than Extra Innings.

    1. On Kodi, which apps are you using to get MLB? Phoenix, sports devil and ProSport are just awful. I’ve tried most of the others and can’t get any to work. They work fine for all other sports. But Baseball just doesn’t work for me. Help please.

      1. You need SportsAccess. Its not free, but the cost is reasonable (about $12 a month) and it includes virtually every sporting event taking place including PPV events for UFC, WWE, Boxing. In my experience, the high end PPV events have great image quality with almost no buffering. Some of the basic sports (MLB, NBA) are in standard definition and in my experience most Phillies games are the opposing teams broadcast crew (if that matters to you). If you google “SportsAccess Kodi” you should get all the additional info you would need.

  1. Endless Sam Bradford/Eagles talk on 97.5, as well as Josh Innes once again, b i t c h i n g & complaining about people in Philadelphia not getting him means more siriusxm radio, and less local sports talk radio for me.

    1. Check out TuneIn too. Free – tons of sports talk. They have a daily NFL show with Kordell Stewart that’s pretty good.

    1. I don’t mock it. But it is not a scalable mainstream solution for most and requires a lot of customization, not mention much of what it does is of questionable legality.

      1. If you’re the type of person who comments on a blog under the name “Crossing Cuck,” yeah, you probably have enough time to tinker. But it’s not a consumer device, not a reasonable long-term solution, and therefore a non-starter for our purposes.

        1. it actually works very well, got rid of cable and do not pay to go to the movies anymore.

          Kyle just doesn’t agree with anything that he doesn’t plug or use. If Kyle used Kodi we would have blog posts that was really an ad about how great Kodi is.

          If he got paid by Kodi like he just did for Vue he wouldn’t be trashing it.

          LOL this whole article was written by Vue, we’re not stupid.

          1. Isn’t watching movies on something like that (in lieu of paying for them at the theater) illegal? Because if so, I’d guess he is trying not to bring that sort of unwanted attention to his livelihood.

            Is it akin to ‘torrenting’ live TV? because that’s going to be illegal if it isn’t already.

        2. I have it (with naviX) and it’s consistently inconsistent. Not a viable substitution

      2. Kyle, thanks a lot for this. I’m 49 and everything I have looked into looks like to much work. This sounds perfect. Really appreciate it!

  2. Do you need to be in the local viewing area to get CSN? I live in Maryland, literally about a mile from Southern Lancaster county and Comcast country, but our shitty provider Only has NBC and FOX from Philly and all the rest it Baltimore/D.C. crap. Worse yet, I can’t even pay for the damn NHL package because I’m too close to the city or something other arcane blackout crap. is the only streaming service I can use, so I haven’t been able to watch Flyers or Sixers in 5 years unless they’re on national TV. I’d jump on Vue in a second if I could get all the CSN games.

    1. The FAQs state it uses your home IP address to determine, but one person tweeted me that they got it to work out of market. I’m not sure how. Worth a try. But I don’t believe you can.

      1. Lots of replies Kyle….almost double figures. Hmmm…wonder why so active all of a sudden?

  3. I guess ill need a reliable internet connection. Maybe, one day, a cable company will add a line on our dead end street. Just kidding they wont.

  4. This is not a bad post. Kyle hits like .120 but this is a solid double in the gap. Kyle is Tyler Goedell.

    Anyway, the best workaround to all of this is to share streaming log ins with friends. One person takes Netflix, one person Amazon, etc. You can work your way through everything that way. Likely around $15-20 all told per month. Sports is the killer. If you’re not a sports fan, you really don’t need cable. If you are, the PS Vue isn’t a bad deal.

    The easiest thing is just to use your dads comcast log in and get the apps you need that way. Some might not be downloadable, but you can hook up your laptop to the TV or use airplay to watch if needed. Sixers games are streamed on CSN’s site. For the Phils, you’d need do the MLBTV/VPN thing. I do that, and splitting MLBTV with a buddy, comes out to $80 to watch every game, including the Phils. The Flyers are generally streamed on YouTube and most big games wind up on NBCSN anyway.

    At some point, and this may take 30 years, you should just be able to pay xxx amount per month for ALL games of each sport and not worry about cable this or bundle package that.

    1. The are all wonderful solutions if you are pathetic, poor, and / or live in your parent’s “guest house”.

  5. Great post, but I think you are not considering those people who are not getting a new plan with Fios or Comcast (and Comcast is also more expensive than Fios). For example, it may be $80 for two years, but year three is $130 and by year four, they’ve stolen your first born. Just another reason for moving away from cable.

    1. Apparently you have not mastered the art of “calling to cancel” once the deal runs out. When you threaten to leave they will generally give you the deal again or a similar promo.

  6. Solid article. I feel pretty much the same. I just moved into a new house about a year ago and while cord cutting is tempting, it would have saved me at most $5 a month. And I’d rather pay that 5 a month for the convience of having a bundled cable package.

  7. Your math is off in that devices you would use to watch Vue or whatever are not reoccurring each year. Also, your FIOS bill is going to go thru the roof once your promo expires – and those cable box rentals are killing you. So while your math may be almost close for years 1 and 2, it doesn’t hold water after that.

    Also just buy your own modem/router – it’ll pay for itself in 6 months.

    1. I didn’t put them as recurring charges. I just put the full price spread out over two years, and broke them down monthly. I did two year pricing because 1) that’s my introduction price, 2) you can usually negotiate your way to extending it, and 3) so much will change in that time that all this will be up for reevaluation.

      1. Good luck negotiating even remotely as good of a deal with Fios after year two. While I used to play that song and dance with Comcast, it just does not fly with Fios. That basically leaves you with 3 options. 1. cut the cord, 2. cancel and go with Comcast or 3. let Fios bend you over to keep your services. There is actually a 4th option where you switch services to your wifes name. Its a hassle as you need to mail them back your cable boxes and have them give you new ones, but it can be done.

      2. No. You. Can’t. Stop! You cannot negotiate extended deals from these corporations. They know they have you. Times have changed, they don’t let anyone just call and bitch to get their bill reduced. In fact, when I cancelled my TV subscription, they didn’t even put up a fight. They immediately said “okay, do you want to drop your equipment off or have someone pick it up?”

        This is a good post, but your logic is incredibly frustrating. The Vue price isn’t going to double after 1 or 2 years. Your cable subscription will. I look forward to your next post after this happens to you and you realize you can’t just call up and negotiate an extension on the deal they only offer to new customers to entice them away from whatever competitor they have in the area. Stop advocating cable TV subscriptions and justifying it based on the assumption that you’ll have that introductory rate forever. You’re wrong and you won’t.

        1. Just got my introductory comcast promotion extended two more years a month ago. It can be done. This is the second time in fact.

          1. Comcast will (generally speaking) extend promos. Fios (in my experiences) does not. While the deals Fios offer to get you to switch tend to be pretty impressive, their willingness to do anything for you in order to keep you as a customer is virtually non-existent (unless you want HBO free for 6 months, they will give you that literally anytime you call to ask them anything).

  8. After using my Kodi box for a month now, we are actually going to get cable now. The box is annoying. I updated my router and modem, the box laggs and most of the links are broken. Click on links that don’t work while the box thing says it’s buffering. After several trys you end up turning the damn thing off and turn on the xbox instead. The annoying navigation sucks. The movies are limited.
    You do get to watch the “in theaters now” selection but some of the links are so low quality I rather look them up on YouTube in fire.
    Truly disappointed with this product.

  9. cut off directv last month was paying 213 per month. have had vue now since that time and pay 39. f directv and att in the a.

  10. Cord cutting only works (for saving money) if you live without a majority of the bigger cable networks. Google what cable companies pay for channels. They get over 50 channels for less than $5.00 per subscriber. If you watch enough TV to justify the biggest Vue bundle, you will likely exceed your data cap and pay more $$$.

  11. If it gets rid of McCarthy sign me up.

  12. I cut cable 6 months ago and am pretty happy overall. For those of you people that buy kodi and dont understand how usenet and related technologies tie in together you’ll never see its true potential, which is fine. Just get a roku and netflix/hulu/sling tv and that will cover 99% of what you want. The only pain in the ass is when your woman wants to watch bravo shows. That’s when having a family members cable account login to get the roku apps authenticated comes in handy.

    Kyle, plugging in an OTA antenna is not a complicated affair and is the best way to watch the Eagles play at least. We’re pretty fortunate to have quite a few channels broadcast in HD here in Philly and its not a point you should gloss over for potential cord cutters. I bought a cheap one and it;s well worth the investment. Other than that, great post today.

    Also, if you’re not going to fire jim at least smack him around a little, k?

  13. You have the X1 DVR correct? I do too, and I think it is far and away the best TV interface created so far. I’m surprised to hear you like the Vue interface better, is it really that good?

  14. thanks for the ad

    you re really trying to take the buzzfeed aproach to york work Jim but we are not as dumb as the Preson and Steve listeners, this is powered by 97.5 after all

  15. More Sam Bradford talk today. Should he apologize to the team? The fans? The city? All of the above?

  16. I kind of felt that cord cutting would end up resulting in a minor disruption, as people subscribe to 12 or more different companies’ streaming services to get the content they want. Cable companies would either adapt or stiff arm the process hoping the could run out the clock before people realize that ala carte content subscription is the devil you don’t know.

    But do people really want to manage 12+ different accounts and passwords? Then eventually someone would come along and re-package all the services into one big subscription to make it easier to manage and we’d be right back where we started. There will just be a new Comcast, Verizon, Cablevision, etc.

    Kind of like what happened when they broke up AT&T into all the Baby Bells and then over a period of 20 years the Baby Bells all re-merged again. So you went from 1 phone company to 50 phone companies back to what 5 phone companies?

  17. “there are very few sports fans who can exist without ESPN’s content.”
    Seriously, Kyle? I haven’t watched anything on ESPN except MNF in at least 15 years. Just about everything on that network is pure garbage.

  18. Legality? Find me someone has been busted for watching a “stream” online not a “Torrent” . if u download torrents you are just asking for trouble.

  19. I cut the cord a year ago. Here is my setup:

    Internet $69.99
    Sony Vue $44.99
    Netlifx $12.99
    Hulu $12.99
    Total $140.96

    I was paying $205 a month for the same service with comcast. I will also be cancelling Hulu once Sony fixes it’s very broken DVR system to save another $12.99 a month.

  20. First of all eff verizon, seriously. Go with xfinity com cast etc. With that said eff cable all together. Google announced youtube will be doing live TV soon. As well as hulu. Those cable box rental fees are insane and the fcc is currently in the works to make changes. PS Vue is good and they have a trial so check it out. I live in central nj and it doesn’t cover msg network and I’m a knocks fan (sorry). But I’m a diehard Eagles fan I cannot stand the giants/jets. I watch Eagles games online. (The not so honest way) tried to get an antenna but it doesn’t pick up Eagles games. All in all eff cable. This was a good read for me thx for it

  21. Unless I have inaccurate info or my initial use is wrong I already ran into a deal breaker for me. I only watch certain sports and I have to watch them later and not live. All of the on demand content is not available until the next day. I can’t live my life a day later for sports. It just doesn’t work for me especially with hearing who won the race prior to viewing for example. I have to find some way to integrate this to a pvr or kodi or npvr etc I can’t do this. It seems great otherwise.

  22. netflix, hulu and amazon prime are 80% overlap. Seems to me a waste of money for all 3. HBO and Showtime. These show the same movies. Why have both. I cut the cord and went from 242.00 a month to 71.00. And yes I have an over the air dvr. I own it. My whole setup paid for itself in 2 months. We don’t miss cable AT ALL!!!!!

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