TV is dead! Long live Internet TV!

smash-tv
Mar
30

TV is dead! Long live Internet TV!

Oh, cable TV. For years I’ve dreamed of breaking up with you. I’ve longed for the day I can call up and finally tell you I’m moving on. I wish I could say “it’s not you, it’s me” but we both know I’d be lying; it’s you. It’s your criminally high costs and bad service. It’s your hundreds of channels I never watch but continue to pay for. It’s the fact that I’m required to pay extra for anything actually worth watching like HBO or football. Honestly, I could go on and on but the fact of the matter is, I HATE YOU. But like a prisoner with Stockholm syndrome, I just can’t let you go. I know it would be for the best. I know this isn’t a healthy relationship. But even so I still need you. This is how I’ve felt about my TV service for years now and I’m far from alone. The industry is consistently rated the worst in customer service and if you’re unlucky enough to have Time Warner or Comcast, well they’re the worst of the worst. So what can you do about it?

Why not switch to a competitor Krampus?

Well that’s a great idea you have there BUT in many markets there is almost no competition to speak of. What little competition exists usually has equally terrible pricing and service. Most people I know that have switched end up going back to their old masters.

OK, what about services like Hulu or Netflix?

Yes, you could do this but it just doesn’t work for me. I have a family to keep happy. Junior needs to watch the Disney channel and Sprout. Wifey and I need to watch Network TV, The Food Network, BBC, and an occasional reality TV show. My dog likes to watch Animal Planet of course. We all like to have the TV on as background noise. Plus what about sports?

So are we doomed to remain in abusive relationships Krampus?

MAYBE not. There has been an interesting development in the world of TV programming as of late. Three different companies, Sony, Apple, and Dish are offering, or will be soon, an alternative. These companies are providing an internet based alternative to traditional TV broadcasting. Unlike Hulu or Nexflix, these companies are working with select content providers to bring live programming to their respective internet services. If they succeed, not only will they create downward pricing pressure on the traditional providers, but they may also help accelerate the evolution of television programming as it is today.

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The Contenders

Sling-TV-logo-2

Sling TV by Dish:

Sling TV was the first company, to the best of my knowledge, to provide this type of service. Sling offers a basic package for $20 per month without a contract that consists of 17 channels. They also offer several add-on packages that feature additional channels pertaining to a specific genre such as sports or kids. Their service works on Amazon Fire TV, Roku 3 Streaming Media Player, iOS, Android, Xbox One, and standard web browsers. Sling TV is currently offering a seven day free trial so you can take the service for a spin and see if it works for you.

OK, so sounds pretty good right? Well before you call your cable TV company lets take a closer look. Although for $20 a month you can watch ESPN, IFC, Cartoon Network, CNN, and more you are NOT going to have access to the big four (ABC, NBC, Fox, or CBS).

Sling-channelsBasic Sling TV Package (click to zoom)

Rewind, fast forward, and pause functions are also lacking. Want to watch your sling TV on more than one device concurrently? Tough luck; you can’t. Round out the negatives with limited on-demand offerings and there you have it.

The bottom line here is this: if you’ve already cut ties with your cable company then Sling TV may be an interesting supplement to whatever service you’re currently using. I like the fact that you have access to several popular cable TV stations AND some live sports. You don’t get that with Netflix or Hulu. Unfortunately, the available programming is still a bit sparse and the add on options don’t offer anything worth paying for. If you’re fed up with the cable company you should at least try the service for seven days free and see if it works for you.

The Good:

  • Price… it’s cheap
  • Versatility: the service is available on a multitude of devices
  • Access to ESPN

The Bad:

  • Lacks pause, rewind, fast forward features
  • Can only stream to one device at a time! This is very close to a deal breaker to me
  • ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX are unavailable
  • Very limited number of stations available at this time

PlayStation_Vue

Sony PlayStation Vue

That’s right boys and girls, Sony is stepping into the shark infested waters of TV. Starting in March 2015 and available in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago (yes I know this is odd) Sony is offering its very own TV service called PlayStation Vue. Sony’s service is available ONLY on Playstaton 3 and 4 game consoles (iPad support coming soon). There are three price points for the service: $49.99, $59.99 and $69.99. Follow the link above for a full description… you’ll need it to decipher how it works and what’s available in your area. Unlike Sling TV, Vue offers DVR functions such as rewind and fast forward. It will also allow you to record channels for viewing at a later time.

vue-channels Basic PlayStation Vue package (click to zoom)

If you couldn’t tell from the picture above, the PlayStation Vue service offers far more channels than Sling TV but at a higher monthly cost.

You can stream from multiple devices concurrently BUT only one PS4 at a time. So if you happen to have two, one connected to the living room TV and one in the man cave you can’t stream at the same time. You can, however, stream at the same time to a PS3 and PS4. Odd but not that big of a deal for most. As far as DVR functionality goes, you can designate a show as a favorite and keep it for up to 28 days. This is essentially cloud streaming of the “recorded” show so it will not take up valuable hard drive space on your console.

Sony Vue is a far more polished experience than that of Sling TV. It’s interface is great looking and easy to use. It also offers a far more traditional TV experience with it’s large selection of available programming. That being said, it also comes with a far larger price tag; one that is very near that of a basic cable package. I could see this service working just fine for my young bachelor former self, but as a mature (yeah, that’s right I’m mature) family man… probably not. Just like Sling TV, Vue offers a free seven day trial so again, it’s probably worth a try to see if it’ll work for you.

The Good:

  • Very compelling selection of channels
  • Beautiful interface
  • DVR functions available

The Bad:

  • High price might negate the benefit of cutting the cord
  • Only available on PlayStation and iPad (coming soon)

 

AppleTV_svg

Apple… Something

THIS has the potential to be THE game changer. Hold on now, relax. I’m not an Apple fan boy under the reality altering spell cast by the giant of Cupertino. Love or hate Apple you must admit they are a powerful company capable of altering any market they enter. Now this particular market will not be easily dominated by Apple. Many have tried and few have succeeded. However, they’ve already changed two of the biggest and stodgiest industries in the US, music and telecom, so what’s to say they won’t revolutionize this one as well; it sure as heck needs it.

This is nothing more than a rumor at this point but it almost certainly will be a reality, possibly in June of this year. The specifics are unknown but the rumor mill believes Apple will announce an internet TV product along with an updated Apple TV. Analysts believe that the Apple service will fall somewhere between the two services mentioned above, offering around 30 channels for between $30 to $40 a month. The difference here is that ABC, CBS, and FOX would be available at a much lower price point. As far as the new Apple TV hardware goes, it is expected that the device will finally be able to run traditional apps. I personally don’t understand what took Apple so long to bring this functionality to the device and I think it will be a game changer. I wasn’t interested in the device before but this peaks my interest… assuming the price is reasonable. Keep an eye out for this announcement, if nothing else it’s sure to be an interesting option that could very well create change industry wide.

The Good:

  • Apple’s long awaited entry into the market. This could be the game changer we’ve been waiting for.

The Bad:

  • We’ll have to wait and see. If I were a betting man, and luckily for you I am, I’d say you’ll be forced to use Apple products, the price of said products will be on the high side, and the price of the service will be more than estimated.

The Technology

If you’re looking to purchase any of the products mentioned in the above article please follow the links below.

 

About Krampus

Gaming has been a passion of mine as long as I can remember. I started playing PC games while many of you reading this were probably still sucking your thumbs. I grew up during the birth of home computing and the the great console wars waged between Nintendo and Sega. My magazines of choice were Nintendo Power and EGM. Needless to say, I've been a part of the gaming community for a long time and bring this experience to my reviews and articles here at ProGameReviews.

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