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.
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. Continue Reading