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 Editor
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He majored in Cinema Studies when studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
4 min read
Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Editor's Note, Feb 4 2020: Sony shut down the PlayStation Vue service on January 30, 2020, but for a list of the best alternative live TV streaming services go here

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.

Watch this: Live TV streaming services for cord cutters: How to choose the best one for you

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 TVDirecTV NowHulu with Live TVFuboTVPlayStation 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 6345586247
ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels YesYes, in many marketsYes, in many marketsYes (no ABC)Yes, in many markets
Record shows for later (cloud DVR) Yes (keep for 9 months)Yes (20GB, keep for 30 days)YesYes (30GB, 500GB for $10 a monthYes (keep for 28 days)
Step-up packages with more channels No$70/monthNoYes$50/month, $60/month or $80/month
Simultaneous streams per account 32 ($5 option for 3)2 ($15 option for unlimited)2 ($6 option for 3)5
Fast-forward through or skip commercials with cloud DVR YesYesNo (Yes with $15 DVR option)YesYes

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.

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.

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.

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: 363824395845476362
ABC NoNoNoNoYesYesYesYesNo
CBS NoNoNoNoYesYesYesYesYes
Fox NoNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
NBC NoNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
CW NoNoNoNoYesYesNoYesYes
MyNetworkTV NoNoNoNoYesYesYesYesYes

A&E YesYesYesYesYesNoNoNoYes
AMC YesYesYesYesNoNoYesYesYes
Animal Planet YesYesNoNoYesNoYesYesNo
BBC America YesYesYesYesNoNoYesYesYes
BBC World News YesYes$$NoNo$Yes$
BET YesYes$YesNoYesNoNoYes
Big Ten Network NoNoNoNoYes$$YesYes
Bloomberg TV NoNoYesYesNoNoNoNoNo
Boomerang YesNo$$YesYes$No$
Bravo NoNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
Cartoon Network YesNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
CBS Sports Network NoNoNoNoYes$$YesYes
Cheddar NoYesYesYesYesNoYesYesYes
Cinemax NoNoNoNo$$$NoNo
CMT NoYes$$No$NoNoYes
CNBC NoNoNo$YesYesYesYesYes
CNN YesNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Comedy Central YesYesYesYesNoYesNoNoYes
Cooking Channel NoYes$$NoNo$No$
Destination America NoYes$$NoNoYesNoNo
Discovery Channel YesYesNoYesYesNoYesYesNo
Disney Channel NoNoYesNoYesYesYesYesNo
Disney Junior NoNo$NoYesYesYesYesNo
Disney XD NoNo$NoYesYesYesYesNo
DIY NoYes$$NoNo$No$
E! NoNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
EPIX NoNo$$NoNo$$No
ESPN NoNoYesNoYesYesYesYesNo
ESPN 2 NoNoYesNoYesYesYesYesNo
ESPNU NoNo$NoYes$$YesNo
Food Network YesYesYesYesYesNoYesYesYes
Fox Business NoNoNoNoYesYesYesYesYes
Fox News NoNoNoNoYesYesYesYesYes
Fox Sports 1 NoNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
Fox Sports 2 NoNoNoYesYes$YesYesYes
Freeform NoNoYesNoYesYesYesYesNo
FX NoNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
FX Movie Channel NoNoNoNoYesYes$YesYes
FXX NoNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
Golf Channel NoNoNo$Yes$$YesYes
Hallmark YesYes$$NoYes$NoYes
HBO NoNoNoNo$Yes$NoNo
HGTV YesYesYesYesYesNoYesYesYes
History YesYesYesYesYesNoNoNoYes
HLN YesNo$$YesYesYesYesYes
IFC YesYesYesYesNoNo$YesYes
Investigation Discovery YesYesYesYesYesNoYesYesNo
Lifetime YesYesYesYesYesNoNoNoYes
Lifetime Movie Network YesYes$$NoNoNoNoYes
MLB Network NoNo$$NoNo$YesNo
Motor Trend YesYesYesNoYesNo$YesNo
MSNBC NoNoNo$YesYesYesYesYes
MTV YesYes$$NoYesNoNoYes
MTV2 YesYes$$NoNoNoNo$
National Geographic NoNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
Nat Geo Wild NoNoNoYesYesYes$YesYes
NBA TV NoNo$$NoNo$YesYes
NBC Sports Network NoNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
Newsy NoNoYesYesNoNoNoYes$
NFL Network NoNoNoYesNoNo$NoYes
NFL Red Zone NoNoNo$NoNo$No$
NHL Network NoNo$$NoNoNoNoNo
Nick Jr. NoYes$YesNoYesNoNoYes
Nickelodeon YesYesNoNoNoYesNoNoYes
Nicktoons YesYes$$NoNoNoNo$
OWN YesYesNoNoNoNoYesNoNo
Oxygen NoNoNo$YesYesYesYesYes
Paramount Network NoYes$YesNo$NoNoYes
Science NoYes$$NoNoYesNoNo
SEC Network NoNo$NoYes$$NoNo
Showtime NoNo$$$$$$$
Smithsonian NoNoNoNoYesNo$YesYes
Starz NoNo$$No$No$No
Sundance TV YesYes$$NoNo$YesYes
Syfy NoNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
Tastemade NoYesNoNoNoNo$YesNo
TBS YesNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Telemundo NoNoNoNoYesYesYesYesYes
Tennis Channel NoNo$$NoNo$Yes$
TLC YesYesNoYesYesNoYesYesNo
TNT YesNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Travel Channel NoYesYesYesYesNoYesYesYes
TruTV YesNo$YesYesYesYesYesYes
Turner Classic Movies YesNo$$YesYes$YesYes
TV Land YesYes$$No$NoNoYes
Univision NoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoYes
USA Network NoNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
VH1 YesYes$$NoYesNoNoYes
Viceland YesYesYesYesYesNoNoNoYes
WE tv YesYes$$NoNoYesYesYes
Weather Channel NoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoYes