Commentary

Taste Test: PS Vue, Sling TV and DirecTV Now

There are three major cable-busters out there. Sling TV has been around for nearly two years, but now has competition from AT&T’s DirecTV Now and Sony’s PlayStation Vue.  

They range in price and features. They’re all cheaper than cable, particularly if you get the cheapest version of one of these OTT services.

All have drawbacks and benefits, some more pronounced than others. To a large extent, you have to believe with each product there is a lot that will be improved.

Usually, early adopters pay through the nose for the privilege of using new tech. With these online content services, you’re paying relatively little for the hope they will get better.

At work here is the idea behind the term “minimally viable product.” Something new is thrown into the marketplace, even as the maker knows it’s just half-baked. But being in the marketplace is more important, and the producer is banking on consumers to point out what’s lacking and be patient enough to wait for the better version.

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I guess that happens, but in the meantime, early users get to create havoc. Word of mouth is a killer and easy to find.

On my Amazon Fire service, I went to each of these apps, to the portion listed “reviews” and read what these brave pioneers had to say.

A sample, first from DirecTV Now subscribers:

“Trash. . . feels like a Beta test,” wrote “rmiles01” eight days ago. Added Dmitry Osovsky on Dec. 11, “The service is a complete joke right now. If you try to watch anything during prime time it will stop every 30-40 seconds or so and buffer for another 5-10 seconds.”

On the other hand (but truthfully, this hand is not much in evidence on the review page), there’s the view of Robert O. K on Dec. 4, who wrote, “A really nice service at a great price. 100 channels and HBO ($35 + $5 for HBO). . . The people who griped about this service should not be first adopters. . . Of course I hope to see a DVR and better on-demand.”

To be fair, DirecTV Now is just about a month old. ZGyrl16, who gave DirecTV Now one star, wrote on Dec 18, “If I could give this no stars, I would. DirecTV should have waited a few months to roll it out.”

And maybe DirecTV would have, but Hulu and YouTube are also readying similar services early next year.  Minimally-viable-product thinking is at work here.

There’s a different tone from PlayStation Vue users:

PlayStation Vue customer Arthur L. Johnson Jr is as happy as some of those DirecTV Now customers are sad. “”I Broke the Chains of Cable. . . Finally” he wrote in March, awarding the Sony product five stars. In fact many of the raters were very happy campers. “A Giant Weight Is Lifted Off My Shoulders” wrote Andrew, which not only shows some immense satisfaction but seems to be another hilarious example of how much some people hate paying for cable.

But a user named Tsur gave the service just two stars. Tsur said, “The DVR isn’t a DVR at all and really shouldn’t be thought of as such.” According to this user, if you wanted to record, let’s say, a particular episode of “Friends,” this DVR will not only record the episode you want, but “EVERY episode of ‘Friends’ it can possibly find. . . so instead of having one episode of ‘Friends,’ you have dozens that you have to scroll through.”

Finally, for now, is Sling TV, which has been around since January 2015:

“Cut the cord, people,” said user Chris Cook in August.”Works great! No issues, happy to save $1,300 a year.” But he seems to be in a distinct minority. Most succinct was Larry Finley, who headlined his review, “Pure crap” in May 2015. In general, “Don’t waste your time” is a good summation, both from old reviews and recent ones. These Sling TV people put the diss and grunt into the word disgruntled.

There are lots of variables, though, mostly involving the content providers that are, or are not, made available. There is no CBS network from DirecTV Now, but that is softened a lot by a  low $5 a month charge for HBO. But, if you read the reviews, you’d probably come to the conclusion that PlayStation Vueis the best service at the moment, followed by DirecTV Now and then Sling TV.


pj@mediapost.com

1 comment about "Taste Test: PS Vue, Sling TV and DirecTV Now".
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  1. Rob Henry from Freelance, March 24, 2017 at 2:49 p.m.

    Like all of the services referenced, SelectTV has its drawbacks. However, for the price ($24/yr) it's hard to file many complaints. The UI is easy to navigate and there's plenty of programming to satisfy a variety of tastes. There is no live streaming for sports or news, but again this is negligible when you consider the savings. Die-hard TV junkies might need to splurge on some of these premium packages, but for the casual viewer and most entertainment enthusiasts, it's a great option to consider.

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