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PlayStation Vue review: Live TV that's not just for gamers

Vue has a slick interface and plenty of features yet suffers from a comparatively weak channel selection.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Sony's PlayStation Vue has a name problem. It's a live TV streaming service that doesn't include "TV" in the name at all. Worse, the name could imply that it only works on Sony's PlayStation game consoles. So let's get this out of the way up front: You don't need a PlayStation to use the PlayStation Vue. It works on numerous smart TVs, media streamers and phones, just like competitors YouTube TV, DirecTV Now and Hulu with Live TV.

When PlayStation Vue debuted in 2016 it was the first premium live TV streaming service, with more channels than Sling TV -- the only other such service at the time. Sony's offering still has a lot going for it today, with a powerful, easy-to-use interface and one of the best cloud DVRs available,

Unfortunately Vue's latest price increase to $50 pits it directly against two very talented competitors at the same price: YouTube TV and DirecTV Now. DirecTV Now has the advantage of including HBO, and nearly matching Vue's channel count, while YouTube TV is my favorite overall at this price, with a superior channel mix and a better DVR than any of them.

Ultimately it's all about channels for the money, and as nice as Vue is to use, it can't bring enough channels to compete at $50.

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What it is

PlayStation Vue is a streaming service designed to replace a cable or other live TV subscription. It has over 50 live channels to watch or record on a wide selection of connected devices. It's available on the following platforms:

Premium live TV services compared

Premium services YouTube TV DirecTV Now Hulu with Live TV FuboTV PlayStation Vue
Base price $50/month for 70+ channels $50/month for 45+ channels $45/month for 60+ channels $55/month for 100+ channels $50/month for 55+ channels
Total number of Top 100 channels 63 45 58 62 47
ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels Yes Yes, in many markets Yes, in many markets Yes (no ABC) Yes, in many markets
Record shows for later (cloud DVR) Yes (keep for 9 months) Yes (20GB, keep for 30 days) Yes Yes (30GB, 500GB for $10 a month Yes (keep for 28 days)
Step-up packages with more channels No $70/month No Yes $50/month, $60/month or $80/month
Simultaneous streams per account 3 2 ($5 option for 3) 2 ($15 option for unlimited) 2 ($6 option for 3) 5
Fast-forward through or skip commercials with cloud DVR Yes Yes No (Yes with $15 DVR option) Yes Yes

PlayStation Vue offers all the features you'd expect from the price, including a TV guide, multiple simultaneous streams, a cloud DVR and on-demand options. 

Its major weakness is that it doesn't offer as many of the top 100 channels as any of its competitors except DirecTV Now (which has HBO). Vue and YouTube TV omit many of the same channels, including Animal Planet, Comedy Central, History and Nickelodeon, but Vue also lacks The CW, NBA TV and Sundance TV (all included on YouTube TV) in its base tier. 

If you want more channels you can get them on Vue, but it will cost you. The basic Access package is $50, the Core package adds sports for $55, while the Elite package at $65 and Ultra package at $85 add even more channels. 

The price rise of $5 across the board followed similar price rises from competitors including DirecTV Now which added HBO and went up by $10. Meanwhile, Fubo TV went up $10 but added a spate of channels, and YouTube TV also increased by $10.

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

One of the most intriguing new features for both the PlayStation and Apple TV is Multi View which allows users to watch up to three channels at once (four on Apple TV). You choose one main focused channel with audio and then add auxiliaries, and the interface allows you to switch between them.  

What's it like to use?

Perhaps thanks to its gaming origins, the Vue interface is one of the most visually stimulating, with bright menus and large thumbnails. The service is more lively and likable than its biggest competitor YouTube, in my opinion.

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The channel guide is slightly different depending on which platform you use. It's arranged vertically with channels across the top on the PlayStation's interface, but in a more traditional horizontal fashion on Roku. I really liked how the guide condenses into days once you finish the current 24 hours. This allows you to skip to a specific day without having to wade through hours of programs. Smart.

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Home screen is essentially composed of One row and one column -- the first column is divided up into timeline, recently watched, and currently watching. The next column along is Trending Live TV, then My DVR, then Favorite channels, Sports and finally Featured. 

The interface can have its quirks, which you'll need to learn, and this is especially true on the Apple TV. For example, you need to press play to exit a menu and watch a show rather than the usual menu button. Pressing menu continually instead just dumps you out of the program without even a warning prompt.

Picture quality was generally good, though, of course it was dependent on the channel. I did notice that Discovery was very soft-looking on Fast 'N Loud, and the Food Network was a little softer than YouTube TV. Your mileage may vary.

Should you get it?

PlayStation Vue may not be the most popular service, and it does lack some channels that others offer, but in day-to-day use I like it better than most. The interface is fun and the DVR works very well.

Is it worth $50? Maybe. The sins it commits are the sins of omission -- it lacks the channel count of its biggest competitor and its DVR isn't as comprehensive as YouTube TV. Meanwhile, the cheaper services such as Sling Blue and AT&T Watch TV offer the best bargain.

Streaming service channel lineup

Channel AT&T Watch TV ($15) Philo ($20) Sling Orange ($25) Sling Blue ($25) Hulu with Live TV ($45) DirecTV Now ($50) PS Vue ($50) YouTube TV ($50) Fubo TV ($55)
Total channels: 36 38 24 39 58 45 47 63 62
ABC No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
CBS No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
NBC No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
PBS No No No No No No No No No
CW No No No No Yes Yes No Yes Yes
MyNetworkTV No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes










A&E Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes
AMC Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes
Animal Planet Yes Yes No No Yes No Yes Yes No
BBC America Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes
BBC World News Yes Yes $ $ No No $ Yes $
BET Yes Yes $ Yes No Yes No No Yes
Big Ten Network No No No No Yes $ $ Yes Yes
Bloomberg TV No No Yes Yes No No No No No
Boomerang Yes No $ $ Yes Yes $ No $
Bravo No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cartoon Network Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CBS Sports Network No No No No Yes $ $ Yes Yes
Cheddar No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Cinemax No No No No $ $ $ No No
CMT No Yes $ $ No $ No No Yes
CNBC No No No $ Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CNN Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Comedy Central Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes
Cooking Channel No Yes $ $ No No $ No $
C-SPAN No No No No No No No No No
Destination America No Yes $ $ No No Yes No No
Discovery Channel Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
Disney Channel No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Disney Junior No No $ No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Disney XD No No $ No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
DIY No Yes $ $ No No $ No $
E! No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
EPIX No No $ $ No No $ $ No
ESPN No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
ESPN 2 No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
ESPNEWS No No $ No Yes $ $ Yes No
ESPNU No No $ No Yes $ $ Yes No
Food Network Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Fox Business No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox News No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 1 No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 2 No No No Yes Yes $ Yes Yes Yes
Freeform No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
FX No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
FX Movie Channel No No No No Yes Yes $ Yes Yes
FXX No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Golf Channel No No No $ Yes $ $ Yes Yes
Hallmark Yes Yes $ $ No Yes $ No Yes
HBO No No No No $ Yes $ No No
HGTV Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
History Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes
HLN Yes No $ $ Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
IFC Yes Yes Yes Yes No No $ Yes Yes
Investigation Discovery Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
Lifetime Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes
Lifetime Movie Network Yes Yes $ $ No No No No Yes
MLB Network No No $ $ No No $ Yes No
Motor Trend Yes Yes Yes No Yes No $ Yes No
MSNBC No No No $ Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
MTV Yes Yes $ $ No Yes No No Yes
MTV2 Yes Yes $ $ No No No No $
National Geographic No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nat Geo Wild No No No Yes Yes Yes $ Yes Yes
NBA TV No No $ $ No No $ Yes Yes
NBC Sports Network No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Newsy No No Yes Yes No No No Yes $
NFL Network No No No Yes No No $ No Yes
NFL Red Zone No No No $ No No $ No $
NHL Network No No $ $ No No No No No
Nick Jr. No Yes $ Yes No Yes No No Yes
Nickelodeon Yes Yes No No No Yes No No Yes
Nicktoons Yes Yes $ $ No No No No $
OWN Yes Yes No No No No Yes No No
Oxygen No No No $ Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Paramount Network No Yes $ Yes No $ No No Yes
Science No Yes $ $ No No Yes No No
SEC Network No No $ No Yes $ $ No No
Showtime No No $ $ $ $ $ $ $
Smithsonian No No No No Yes No $ Yes Yes
Starz No No $ $ No $ No $ No
Sundance TV Yes Yes $ $ No No $ Yes Yes
Syfy No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tastemade No Yes No No No No $ Yes No
TBS Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Telemundo No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tennis Channel No No $ $ No No $ Yes $
TLC Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
TNT Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Travel Channel No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
TruTV Yes No $ Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Turner Classic Movies Yes No $ $ Yes Yes $ Yes Yes
TV Land Yes Yes $ $ No $ No No Yes
Univision No No No No No No No No Yes
USA Network No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
VH1 Yes Yes $ $ No Yes No No Yes
Viceland Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes
WE tv Yes Yes $ $ No No Yes Yes Yes
Weather Channel No No No No No No No No Yes