Canceling your cable plan doesn’t mean that you can no longer watch live television. PlayStation Vue is a cable-replacement video streaming service that lets you watch live TV channels on a variety of platforms. The service is reasonably priced, offers a good mix of content, and boasts excellent DVR functionality. Best of all, you don’t need to own a PlayStation console to use it, despite the name. It’s a great service, but its standard tier offers fewer channels than some of its top competitors.
PS Vue Channels and Pricing
Cable-replacement streaming services follow similar pricing patterns to regular cable: the more you pay, the more channels you can watch. PS Vue offers four monthly subscription tiers: Access, Core, Elite, and Ultra. The entry-level Access plan costs $44.99 per month and features 50 channels. The channel lineup includes typical networks, such as CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC. News coverage is strong, with BBC America, CNBC, CNN, and MSNBC making an appearance, but this tier’s sports coverage is limited to a few local networks, ESPN, and ESPN2. Rounding out the list are popular entertainment and lifestyle channels such as AMC, Animal Planet, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Food Network, HGTV, SyFy, and Travel Channel.
The Core tier plan costs $49.99 per month and adds a significant number of sports channels, such as ESPNEWS, ESPN U, FS1, FS2, Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBA TV, and NFL Network. These additions bring the total count to around 75 channels.
The Elite package costs $59.99 per month and features roughly 100 channels. It builds on the Core plan’s coverage by adding BBC World News, Boomerang, ESPN Deportes, Fox Deportes, the Tennis Channel, and Universal Kids. The plan also includes dedicated movie channels, such as Epix Hits and FXM. The top-tier Ultra plan goes for $79.99 per month and includes everything in the Elite package, along with HBO and Showtime.
PS Vue’s price plans are consistent with those of the competition. For comparison, FuboTV’s base plan costs $54.99 per year and includes 90 channels; YouTube TV costs $49.99 per month for around 70 channels, and DirecTV Now’s entry-level plan costs $50 per month for around 40 channels. Sling TV’s combined plan costs $40 per month and includes roughly 56 channels, while entertainment-focused Philo bundles around 40 channels for $16 per month.
Note that with any cable-replacement service, PS Vue is still subject to blackouts for movies, TV shows, and sporting events based on contractual obligations or local and national distribution rights.
Add-Ons and Platforms
PS Vue offers several add-on subscriptions for filling out your channel lineup. Starting with the Access plan, you can add on FX+ for $5.99 per month, Epix Hits for $3.99 per month, and the Español Pack for $4.99 per month. The Español Pack includes Cine Sony, CNN en Espanol, Discovery en Espanol, Nat Geo Mundo, and Universo.
Subscribers to the Core, Elite, and Ultra Plan can add the Sports Pack for an additional $10 per month. This package includes Red Zone from NFL Network, ESPN Classic, NESN, NBC Sports, Fox Sports Networks, and Fox College Sports. Note that some of these packages offerings overlap with the channels you get in the Elite and Ultra packages, so you might not need this package to watch the sports that are important to you.
PS Vue also offers a variety of standalone channels you can add to your subscription, such as HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and Fox Soccer Plus. There are also combo plans available such as HBO and Cinemax ($21.99 per month for both together) and Epix Hits and Showtime ($13.99 per month).
PS Plus members ($59.99 per year) can get discounted pricing on some of these extra packages and channels. For example, the price for Epix Hits goes down to $2.99 per month (from $3.99) and the Español Pack decreases to $3.99 per month (from $4.99). Also, the standalone Showtime subscription decreases to $8.99 per month (from $10.99), the HBO and Cinemax package gets cut to $19.99 per month (from $21.99), and Fox Soccer Plus takes a dive to $12.99 per month (from $14.99).
As mentioned earlier, PS Vue is not just for PlayStation owners. In addition to the PlayStation 3 and 4, PS Vue supports Amazon Fire TVs and tablets, Apple TVs and iOS devices, Android TVs and mobile devices; Google Chromecasts; Roku players and TVs; and all popular mobile browsers. PS Vue supports five simultaneous streams, which is about average for the category. We discuss DVR features in more details later, but subscribers can save an unlimited number of episodes from up to 500 programs for up to 28 days.
PS Vue’s Web Interface
PS Vue’s web interface uses dark colors with splashes of bright blue. It looks clean and modern, but it’s not as intuitive as that of YouTube TV and stutters occasionally when loading some of the information-heavy modules. The top-level navigation menu includes Home, My DVR, Channels, Live TV, and Guide. Annoyingly, the interface kept showing alerts right below the top menu, even after I dismissed them several times. On the right-hand side of the screen, you get a search tool and a button for account preferences. In testing, the search tool worked as expected, returning relevant results for queries of TV shows, movies, and individual channels. However, it’s not nearly as sophisticated as YouTube TV’s search functionality, which lets you concatenate search terms, such as a genre and initial airdate, for example.
The account preferences section is pretty robust. You can add profiles for different users, which helps PS Vue make better recommendations for individuals. Additionally, you can change Closed Captioning settings, such as the text style, size, and color, along with the background color. There’s even a setting for enabling the interface to display Sports Scores and a helpful FAQ section in plain text. If you hit the Manage Subscription button, you get access to billing and plan settings.
The My DVR tab is the home for all the content you’ve watched and saved or programming that you want to save that is airing at a later date. You can click on a title to see all of the On Demand content and to get recommendations for similar content. Note that when you add a show to your DVR, PS Vue will save every episode set to air going forward of that program as well. For example, when I added a Futurama episode to My DVR, PS Vue collected all the on-demand episodes of Futurama that were available to watch and scheduled a recording of all Futurama episodes going forward.
The Channels interface simply displays all of the channels available to watch on your plan. Each channel displays what is currently streaming as well as a progress bar showing how close the program is to being finished. You can also favorite channels for accessing them more easily. The Live TV area lists all the programming currently on air, which overlaps with the information of the Channels section quite a bit. The Guide shows a broader overview of the programming schedule. At the top of the screen, you can select a date and time up to six days in the past or future. I really appreciate the Back to Current Time button for getting back to the current TV schedule. You can also filter this list by Sports Channels, Kids Channels, Movie Channels, and News Channels.
PS Vue’s web and mobile apps do not support its On Demand menu, which is where you would be able to find previously aired shows that are still watchable. That said, you can still find on-demand programming via a show’s detail page. If a network does offer on-demand shows, they are typically available up to three days in the past. This omission is unfortunate.
If you see something you want to watch, just click on the program listing to see its details. You can also launch the stream directly or click the plus button to add it to your DVR. The Now Playing screen works well, with a standard set of buttons and features, including 10-second rewind and forward buttons, a Closed Captioning (CC) toggle, and an option for adjusting streaming quality.
Watching Options and Accessibility
As mentioned, some of Vue’s content is viewable even after it airs. If you start watching a program while it is airing, PS Vue also lets you start the stream from the beginning for some content. This is similar to fuboTV’s Lookback and Start Over features, which respectively do the same thing.
DVR capabilities are invaluable for cable-replacement streaming service since they allow you to watch live events on your own schedule and fast forward through all the boring bits, such as ads. PS Vue, as mentioned, lets you record an unlimited number of episodes of up to 500 shows for up to 28 days. As with other services, PS Vue’s DVR capabilities come with some restrictions. For example, some channels are simply not available for DVR, while others do not allow you to fast-forward through recordings.
For comparison, YouTube TV imposes no DVR storage limit and keeps titles for nine months. fuboTV’s base plan lets you record 30 hours’ worth of content, but it keeps them indefinitely. DirecTV Now is the least capable of the cable-replacement bunch, with storage for 20 hours of shows that expire after 30 days, but SlingTV charges an extra $5 per month for 50 hours of DVR storage (oldest recorded content gets removed as you reach the limit).
PS Vue does not currently offer any parental control options. SlingTV is one of the few cable-replacement type services to integrate parental control features, but ratings-based restrictions are fairly common for on-demand streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and HBO Now.
As mentioned, PS Vue offers excellent CC customization options, though we wish those settings were accessible directly from the playback screen. That said, captioning was fairly accurate and synced up with the video content adequately in testing.
PS Vue on Mobile
I had no issues downloading and logging in to PlayStation Vue Mobile app on my Google Pixel 3 running Android 9.0. The app’s design is consistent with the web interface and looks sophisticated. Navigation is accomplished via four bottom menu icons: Home, Guide, My DVR, and Search. Settings are accessible via the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
PS Vue doesn’t skimp on the settings section on the mobile app. Profile settings are present, for example, as are settings for controlling data usage and your home location. You can even manage your subscription directly from the mobile app; many other video streaming services redirect you to a website for billing and plan settings.
By default, the Home tab shows various content carousels such as Trending live TV, Recently Watched, Movies, and Featured. However, PS Vue allows you to customize the categories that appear on the Home Tab. So for example, if you don’t care about Movies or Sports, you can remove them from the main screen with a simple toggle. No other video streaming service I’ve reviewed offers this flexibility. One other advantage of the mobile app is the ability to sort DVR content by name, airdate, and expiring soon. You cannot do this from the web.
PS Vue recommends an internet connection of at least 10Mbps and an additional 5Mbps of bandwidth for every additional stream. This is well within the normal range of most services. YouTube TV only claims that it needs a 3Mbps connection, but fuboTV says it requires a 20Mbps connection for optimal results.
PS Vue can stream at a maximum of 1080p, but some channels are capped at 720p, which is annoying. That latter limitation is the fault of the broadcaster, however, not PlayStation Vue. fuboTV supports streaming resolutions of up to 4K on select channels.
I tested PS Vue’s streaming performance on a Windows 10 desktop while connected to Ethernet (200Mbps download). A stream of an MLB game started quickly and ramped up to full quality shortly thereafter, as did of one of the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament matchups. The streaming audio quality was correctly synced with playback and I encountered minimal lag. I also tested streaming performance on my mobile device, while connected to a 15Mbps Wi-Fi network, and the streaming video quality remained excellent.
PS Vue and VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) is a great tool for protecting your data online. That said, you may run into issues with video streaming services, since some block VPN traffic as a way to uphold content licensing agreements or other geographic restrictions. PlayStation Vue, like many other services, requires subscribers to be based in the US, albeit with some freedom for watching away from home.
You may be able to find a VPN that works with some of your video streaming services, but a permanent solution is unlikely. Services may catch on the workarounds that VPNs employ to get you access and shut them down. More important, however, when you choose a VPN is to find one that uses strong encryption and prioritizes user privacy above all else.
I tried streaming PS Vue content while connected to a US-based Mullvad VPN server in my geographic location, with no luck. Strangely, on my Android device, I was able to access live streaming content while connected to one of Mullvad’s US-based WireGuard VPN servers.
A Worthy Cable Replacement Service
Sony’s PlayStation Vue video streaming service is a formidable cable-replacement service that offers solid DVR features, good performance, and apps on a variety of platforms. We also like that its higher-tier plans are reasonably priced and its many add-on subscription options. However, the base plan offers fewer channels than top competitors and it lacks parental control features. The dedicated On Demand menu should also be added to the web and mobile apps. Our recommendation goes to YouTube TV, due to its superior interfaces, DVR capabilities, and channel lineup. If you don’t care about live channels and are looking to watch on-demand content, Netflix is our Editors’ Choice pick.