Cord cutting—ditching cable for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other streaming platforms—sounds great until you want to watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead or catch an NCAA basketball game. Now, those unwilling to snip the cord have another alternative to cable service and set-top box rental fees: Sony has taken its PlayStation Vue online TV service from a pilot program to a nationwide offering in an additional 203 cities, starting at $30 per month for about 55 channels.
PlayStation Vue—a competitor to Sling TV, which launched in 2015—isn’t a perfect replacement for cable and satellite, but it comes closer than any other streaming option. Even the basic plan has some hot channels, including AMC, Comedy Central, Discovery, Food Network, MTV, SyFy, and USA. It also has several Fox Sports channels and ESPN.
The major TV networks—ABC, FOX, and NBC—will also be available on PlayStation Vue, but will not be offered live; as with Hulu, their shows can be watched the day after airing. PlayStation Vue could feasibly make an $8-per-month Hulu subscription obsolete—especially after Sony adds CBS, the one missing network that it promises to have soon. Viewers in the original seven cities—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, and Miami—can get live TV because Sony has already brokered deals with the local network affiliates. But these customers also pay more, with plans starting at $40 per month.
Sling TV, which does not have access to the major networks, costs just $20 per month for about 20 channels, including AMC, ESPN, A&E, History, and HGTV. Toss in $8 for Hulu and $6 for CBS All Access, and you also get the networks, for about what Sony is charging—but with half as many channels. (Sony also includes a nearly unlimited cloud DVR, while Sling TV has nothing of the sort.) By going national, Sony is putting serious pressure on Sling TV to up its game or lower its costs.
But one thing may give prospective customers pause: PlayStation Vue is only available on a handful of devices, including the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 game consoles, Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, and all iOS devices. (iPads and iPhones can also stream to a Google Chromecast.) “We’re looking to expand to additional devices, but have nothing to announce at this time,” a Sony spokeswoman told Fast Company.