As consumers are cutting the cord and canceling cable, new services are providing live channel bundles for TV appliances. This article examines and reviews PlayStation Vue for Apple TV.
Sony shut down PlayStation Vue on January 30, 2020, due to a lack of success in the highly competitive live TV streaming market. This article serves as a history of Sony’s Internet-based live TV streaming service.
Let’s face it, cable TV is almost obsolete. The industry just couldn’t innovate and gave users complicated remotes and clunky user interfaces, while charging exorbitant fees. Those days are over, as many people are joining the ranks of cord cutters. I cancelled cable 5 years ago and never looked back. Even back then, between iTunes, Hulu and Netflix, my bases were covered. Sports and news could be viewed over the air using an antenna. I estimate that I have saved $3000 in this time. The costs of subscribing to streaming services and buying content on iTunes pales in comparison to that monthly cable bill.
For a long time, cutting the cord wasn’t for everyone. Some people love to channel surf. Others like to have news channels such as CNN on in the background. After all, if you’re not watching, you may miss all of that breaking news! Furthermore, if you have a large family, cable used to make sense. Buying all of those subscriptions, shows and movies could end up costing a lot.
Times have changed. New services are launching, enabling anyone with an Internet connection to watch live cable channels on smartphones, tablets, computers and TV appliances such as Apple TV. Sling TV was one of the first, however their service wasn’t as good as cable. Beyond the lack of some key channels, reliability was a problem. Just when it felt like I was watching cable TV, the quality would drop or there would be pauses. I checked my Internet connection, but the problem was with Sling TV’s service.
Sony recently launched their PlayStation Vue service for Apple TV. Although the service has been available for PlayStation owners for some time, it has recently launched on Apple TV. In some ways, it’s actually better than cable. The service is reliable, offers high quality video and features a remarkably intuitive user interface. After using PlayStation Vue on Apple TV, you will probably want to throw your cable box and ridiculous remote out the window. Unfortunately, its lack of critical channels and reliance on the unreliable Internet may limit the appeal of PlayStation Vue.
Sony’s PlayStation Vue app requires a fourth generation Apple TV running tvOS 10 or later.
Unfortunately, second and third generation models can’t run PlayStation Vue. AirPlay support is limited to audio. Even AirPlay Mirroring has been disabled for this app.
Given the sophisticated user interface of this app, the lack of Apple TV 2 and 3 support is understandable. PlayStation Vue uses many features specific to tvOS. Sony would need to completely redesign the app, taking out key features, in order to make it compatible with older Apple TV models. Corporations don’t want to invest in a product for obsolete platforms.
Getting Started with PlayStation Vue for Apple TV
Users cannot sign up for PlayStation Vue directly on Apple TV. Like many developers, Sony has opted to forgo Apple’s 30% cut on their service. Apple has done their best to bury this app in the App Store. Unlike DIRECTV NOW, which is actively promoted in the App Store, you have to search for PlayStation Vue. I even asked Siri to “find app PlayStation View” and it claims the app doesn’t exist!
Before you install the PlayStation View app, you need to sign up for the service. PlayStation Vue offers a free 7 day trial. I recommend signing up for the Ultra service during the trial, but make sure to cancel it if you don’t like it. At $79.99 a month, it’s expensive, but may be worth the price. You can cancel before the free trial ends and still use the service for the remaining time.
You can sign up for the free trial on the PlayStation Vue website. A credit card is required to complete the process. Make sure to keep track of your login information, as you will need it to cancel the service. Signing up for the free trial is a straightforward process. Just follow the instructions on the PlayStation Vue website.
Once you have signed up for PlayStation Vue, you can proceed with installing and activating the service on Apple TV. First, launch the App Store and use the top menu to open the search screen. Enter “PlayStation” or as many characters needed to display the PlayStation Vue app. Next, click on the PlayStation Vue icon and click on Get to install the app. Once installed, you can launch it from the app details screen by clicking on Open. I recommend launching the app by pressing the Siri button and saying “PlayStation Vue”.
When the PlayStation app launches for the first time, you will be required to activate your Apple TV. The app guides you through the process, providing a website URL and activation code. Make sure to have a smartphone, tablet or computer nearby, as you will be prompted to enter an activation code on the website. You will need to login to the website using the PlayStation ID you created when signing up for the service.
Once your Apple TV is activated, you can use the PlayStation Vue service. Let’s take a look at some of the key features of the app.
PlayStation Vue Home Screen
Users are presented with the Home screen after activating the app. It’s the most useful screen on PlayStation Vue, enabling quick access to your favorite TV shows. Scrolling down on the Home screen displays all of the different categories — You’re Watching, Recently Watched, My Shows, Live TV, Favorite Channels and Featured. I find it easier to tap (not click) on the Touch surface instead of swiping, especially when navigating the Home screen.
The You’re Watching category displays the current TV channel being viewed, along with the upcoming schedule. Recently Watched displays shows that you have just viewed. My Shows displays programs that will be recorded using PlayStation Vue’s integrated DVR feature. Favorite Channels makes it easy to access only the channels you like. Promoted shows are displayed in the Featured category.
It’s important to note that all of the video cards are interactive. You can click on a show and view details, add it to My Shows and view recommendations. If the card represents a currently playing show, clicking on it will change the channel.
You don’t need to tap the Menu button to dismiss a menu. Simply don’t do anything for 10 seconds and the menus will fade away.
If you haven’t finished interacting with the user interface, simply tap (not click) the Touch surface on the Siri Remote, before it fades away. At first, I found it irksome, but now I love this feature. It’s very elegant, aesthetically pleasing and it simplifies user interaction. Just press the Menu button to revisit the screen that faded away.
Using the PlayStation Vue Guide
The channel guide has been an essential TV viewing feature for decades. If you’re old enough, you may remember buying the TV Guide pamphlet or browsing TV listings in the newspaper. Later on, cable companies provided a scrolling TV guide channel. When digital cable came along, viewers were treated to an interactive channel guide. PlayStation Vue offers a similar feature, but it’s nothing to get excited about. The feature is limited and buggy, but hopefully it will be improved in time.
You can access the guide by pressing the Menu button and scrolling up on the screen until the top menu is in focus. A blue line appears under a menu item when the top menu bar is in focus. Move the line horizontally using the Touch surface and click on Guide. The channel guide appears. The red line indicates the current time. Navigate the channel guide using the Touch surface and click on a show to either watch it or see details. Shows in gray rectangles are currently live.
The guide feature leaves much to be desired. It’s a bit buggy on Apple TV. When scrolling horizontally, one tends to veer off course, navigating later in the timeline. I also had it crash on me, repeatedly. The guide is also limited to displaying the current day of programming. You can’t browse tomorrow or next week’s schedule using the guide. If you just want to see what’s on now, I highly recommend skipping the guide and using the Live TV category on the Home screen. It presents a clean grid of icons with shows you can actually watch.
Another disappointment with PlayStation Vue is that so many shows and channels are blocked. I don’t get Comedy Central at all. Other viewers can’t get CBS. Beyond blocked channels, some shows on supported channels are unavailable. Upon launching the channel, you will just see a message that PlayStation Vue does not have permission to stream the program. This is one huge difference between cable and these Internet-based channel bundles. PlayStation Vue’s guide makes this more difficult, as it will show a blocked show as “live”. These shows are omitted from the Live TV category on the Home screen. Skip the guide and use the Live TV feature.
Search PlayStation Vue
PlayStation Vue offers the typical Apple TV search interface, with the addition of a history feature. This makes it easier to re-use search terms. Let’s face it, the on-screen keyboard is weak and Siri dictation is limited and buggy. The search history list makes these deficiencies more tolerable.
The search feature can find TV shows, movies, sporting events and channels. It’s a great way to power through the user interface when you know exactly what to watch. You can interact with search results directly on the search screen. Simply click on one of the results to get information, add it to My Shows or watch it directly if it’s live.
PlayStation Vue Settings
How to Use PlayStation Vue’s DVR Feature
PlayStation Vue’s easy-to-use DVR is one of its best features. You can record any program by clicking on the “+” button on the top of its detail screen. If it’s a live show, simply swipe down on the Touch screen to view the info screen, and click on the “+” button.
This adds the show to the My Shows list on the Home screen.
From there, click on any show you’ve added to display past episodes. Recorded episodes display the DVR icon on the top right of the show’s card. If the show’s episodes are available on demand, “ON DEMAND” is displayed on the top right.
There’s no way to record individual episodes. PlayStation Vue’s DVR feature records all episodes. It’s not a problem because the shows aren’t stored on your Apple TV. The DVR uses cloud technology, so PlayStation Vue takes up very little space on your Apple TV. This also allows you to watch your recorded shows on your iPhone, iPad or computer. Unfortunately, programs are not recorded in HD — at least the ones I recorded. I was somewhat disappointed to watch recorded episodes of The Walking Dead in below-SD quality. The picture was grainy with a jerky frame rate. I’m not sure if this is a legal requirement or if they do this to minimize the impact on their data center operations.
Recorded episodes are available for 28 days. You can fast forward and skip commercials on most recorded shows, however, this capability is disabled for some programs.
How to Add a Favorite Channel
PlayStation Vue offers a few ways to add a favorite channel. The easiest method is to swipe down on the Touch surface while any channel is playing. This displays the Info panel. Swipe over to the channel icon on the right and click on it.
You will see the channel’s More Info screen. Simply click on the heart icon to add it to favorites.
You can also add a channel from the guide. Launch the guide and click on a program. If the program is live, use the previous steps to add it as a favorite. If not, you will see the program’s detail screen. Click on the channel icon on the top right and then click the heart icon. This same technique can be used throughout the PlayStation Vue app.
Favorite channels are displayed on the Home screen. To remove a channel from favorites, simply select the channel and click on the heart icon again.
How to Watch On Demand
PlayStation Vue offers a vast collection of on demand content. If you forgot to add your favorite show to My Shows, you may be able to watch episodes on demand. Simply click on a show’s card to view the detail screen. You will see cards representing each episode of a show. Cards with ON DEMAND on the top right can be played immediately by clicking on them.
Fast forwarding is disabled on some on demand programs in order to prevent viewers from skipping ads.
Start a Show from the Beginning
Remember the days when you had to plan your schedule around your favorite TV shows? Like many newfangled TV services, PlayStation Vue lets you start many programs from the beginning, even if you tuned in late. Simply click the Touch surface while playing a show to pause and display the timeline. Scrub back on the timeline to start the show from a previous time.
This doesn’t work with all shows. In fact, in my testing, it didn’t work with most shows. If it doesn’t work, you’ll see a rewind icon with a line through it when you attempt to scrub.
You can pause and resume live TV using this same technique. You can also rewind any show from the point where you started watching. For those who are adverse to advertising, pausing a show will enable you to skip past ads and catch up later.
Canceling PlayStation Vue
Canceling PlayStation Vue is easy, however, they seem to have hidden the feature. I logged on to the PlayStation Vue site and went to the account pages, however, there was no cancellation feature. I managed to find the cancellation site using Google.
Once you have reached the cancellation site, simply log in using the account you created. The process is straightforward. Simply follow the on-screen instructions. A brief survey is used to determine why you cancelled. Make sure to be candid as to why you decided to quit.
Is PlayStation View Worth It?
Overall, PlayStation Vue is the best live streaming television service I have tried. It’s much better than Sling TV, offering more channels and better reliability, albeit at a heftier price. If you don’t really watch a lot of live TV but want some cable-like functionality, PlayStation Vue may be right for you. Another advantage is that you can use this service virtually anywhere on any device. It’s like taking your television in your pocket.
The PlayStation Vue app features an excellent user interface, especially compared to the typical digital cable box. There’s no clunky set-top box with a 100 button remote. Instead, everything is presented clearly on screen. PlayStation Vue for Apple TV is remarkably intuitive and elegant. There’s not much of a learning curve at all.
For me, the negatives outweighed the positives, and I ended up canceling the service before billing commenced. I found the app to be a bit buggy, with frequent crashes on the channel guide. I understand that the app is only a few weeks old, however, show-stopper bugs are unacceptable. If they can’t fix critical bugs in a few weeks, it demonstrates a problem with their engineering process.
Unlike cable, there are far too may restrictions on PlayStation Vue. For one, Comedy Central is unavailable on the service, even with the most expensive tier. They’re missing a few other channels. Even worse, individual programs are often blocked on channels they do provide. This goes beyond sports black outs. I noticed far too many shows and movies that were unavailable because PlayStation Vue didn’t have the rights to broadcast them. That just doesn’t happen with cable. If you’re spending $79 a month on the Ultra package, you simply shouldn’t have to experience blocked content. This just goes to show, although the technology is here, good old corporate greed is slowing down progress.
All of these digital services are new and the networks are playing hardball to get the most out of their programming. With PlayStation Vue, you could actually end up spending more than cable and get less. In time, I expect these deals to be ironed out, but for now, these services are basically unusable for most people.
I found the PlayStation Vue service to offer excellent reliability. It’s much more reliable than Sling TV. As long as my Internet service was performing well, I experienced perfect live TV in high quality HD. The problem is that my Internet service doesn’t always work. Four days into my free trial, Comcast was having problems. PlayStation Vue was pausing and the picture quality suffered. Cable isn’t perfect, but since the Internet is so unpredictable, PlayStation Vue and similar services simply aren’t as reliable. It’s not their fault, but the reality of Internet-based TV is that it depends on a perfect Internet connection. No one I know has a perfect Internet connection.
The final straw that broke this camel’s back — DVR picture quality. The shows I recorded were not in HD and not even in SD. It’s a format that’s even worse than broadcast SD, with grainy resolution and jerky frame rates. When you add it up, $79 a month can buy a lot of HD iTunes shows.
As a cord cutter, I just don’t miss cable TV at all. I left cable because it was mostly junk — reality TV and food shows. I get all of the news I need for free on Apple TV, but I mostly rely on Google News. Sony’s PlayStation Vue has some appealing features, but when it comes down to it, it’s not as good as cable and I didn’t like cable in the first place.
You can still cut the cord, but you have to shift your whole paradigm. Live TV just isn’t necessary, except for sports and news. Instead of getting everything under one service, like PlayStation Vue, the cord-cutter should pick and choose exactly what they want. I don’t even subscribe to multiple services at one time. I sign up for Netflix for a few months and cancel, then subscribe to HBO NOW. It’s so easy to cancel and sign up for services, there’s simply no sense in paying for something you don’t use. Sports fans can subscribe to a variety of services that offer interactive capabilities far beyond what’s available on a cable box. Yes, these services can be expensive, but so is cable. PlayStation Vue is also expensive, however, it just isn’t as good as cable. There’s just too much missing for something that costs as much as cable. It seems that every Internet-based cable service suffers from this same problem. A TV service that doesn’t have essential cable channels is simply missing too much to be viable. Perhaps these services will get better over time, but for now you are better off keeping cable or going a la carte as a cord-cutter.