Cord-cutters, rejoice! On the heels of the new Sling TV streaming service, two more new options are coming out with the backing of two of the biggest names in technology and entertainment: Apple and Sony. Apple TV is coming out with a new version this fall that includes live streaming services, and Sony is launching the streaming service Vue to be used with PlayStation models (PS3 or PS4) with more devices to be added later.
How do they stack up against each other, as well as their shared competition? Here are a few areas to consider as you mull over your cord-cutting options.
- Channel Lineup – This may be Vue’s greatest advantage. Vue offers 55 channels on the base level including the major networks CBS, NBC, and Fox, as well as cable channels AMC, USA, Comedy Central, TNT, HGTV, FX/FXXX, and MTV/VH1. The big hole in Vue’s current lineup is ABC/ESPN, which is likely to be in the Apple TV camp given the close relationship between parent company Disney and Apple.
Apple holds the sporting edge with ESPN and the major sports absent the NFL (MLB, NBA, NHL). Among the other 25 channels expected to be in the lineup are the major networks with the potential hole of NBC channels (Comcast property), HBO, CNBC, and Bloomberg. The full lineup is still in negotiation.
- Availability – Because the content contracts are specific to local markets, currently Vue is only available in three large markets: New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia. By the time Apple TV debuts, Vue should have expanded into more areas, but Apple TV is likely to have greater accessibility nationwide. Vue is likely to hit a higher level of population where it becomes uneconomical to service the area.
- Capabilities – So far both are limited to their respective platform devices (PlayStation for Vue and Apple for Apple TV). Plans are supposedly in the works to expand the device platforms, but it is hard to see Apple incorporating non-Apple devices or Vue breaking onto Apple devices.
Vue has an effective “DVR” function allowing up to 500 series that are retained for 28 days and extensive search capabilities with multiple filters. Streaming is at 720p resolution, while Apple claims up to 1080p streaming resolution.
Apple TV’s Family Sharing and the storage on iCloud allows for your whole family to share all of the purchased TV shows and movies between family members for play on their own compatible device without time limits. A TV-based app store and voice recognition control through Siri are also rumored to be in the works.
- Cost – Apple TV’s hardware was recently dropped to $69, although the phrase “starting at $69” suggests that more expensive upgrades are coming with the new streaming service. The monthly cost is not set yet, but it is expected to be in the $20-$40 range per month. Vue’s larger offering comes at a higher cost, starting at $50 for the basic package with $60 and $70 tiers available adding local sports and lifestyle channels respectively.
- Interface – Vue features the typical gaming interface, which is great if you are a gamer but annoying if you are not. Apple TV features its usual user-friendly interface.
Both of these services appeal to a certain set of cord-cutters. If you already have a lot of Apple products and services, Apple TV may be more appealing to you. Consequently, if you are a Sony gamer, Vue should be right in your wheelhouse. Vue appears to be more of a straight-up replacement for cable, independent of cost, while Apple TV seems to be aimed more at a mid-range alternative between cable and Sling TV in both cost and content.
Other unknowns include how long the content deals will last and whether content will switch, or whether any intrusive advertising will be involved with either system.
Your overall decision-making process on cord-cutting depends on the same questions that it always has: what channels and content are must-haves, what capabilities do you need to meet your preferred watching habits, and how much are you willing to pay per month?
With no contracts involved, if you are willing to invest in the hardware, you can try each system out and switch on a monthly basis. It may be wise to wait until all the streaming services are out and have some track record of success or failure, but if you prefer being an early adopter, go for it.