Internet and TV packages comparison
Now is the best of times for streaming video, and the worst of times for traditional cable TV.
This is a tale of two services. PlayStation Vue and Sling TV are available not just in two cities, but pretty much everywhere nationwide. Both allow you to stop paying your cable or satellite provider for TV service, yet still watch live television at home and on mobile devices like iPhones.
Neither one is "a la carte" TV, that still-distant dream that allows you to pick and choose individual channels. Instead they both offer packages of certain channels for set fees, starting at $20 for Sling TV and $30 for Vue. And for both you'll need a robust Internet connection.
The good news is that you can try both for free right now, provided you have a compatible device. You can also drop either service anytime you want - for example you could keep them only long enough to catch March Madness basketball, or the current season of "The Americans" or "He Shed She Shed." Try doing that with your cable company.
So which one should you choose? Here's an in-depth comparison to help you decide.
Price, availability and features
Sling TV is cheaper, especially in certain US cities, and works with more devices. It also offers a more flexible and affordable array of step-up channel packages.
The more-expensive PlayStation Vue is easily the winner in terms of features, with a full-function "cloud DVR, " the ability to stream to multiple devices on the same account and profiles for different family members. It also beats Sling handily in sheer number of channels.
PlayStation Vue vs. Sling TV
A couple of the items above bear expansion. Sling TV is the same nationwide while Vue's pricing is more in the "select cities" listed above. In those cities you also get live local broadcasts of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. In other cities Vue offers shows from those networks on demand with a 24-hour delay (with CBS' on-demand service "coming soon.") Disclaimer: CBS is the parent company of CNET.
Beyond price, Sling's biggest advantage is that it works on pretty much any device - the only major exception is Apple TV. It even works with PC and Mac computers, and there are no restrictions for mobile devices.
Vue's device support is much more limited, and it suffers a bunch of restrictions on mobile use too; the DVR is inactive, for example, and certain channels aren't available. At least you don't need a PlayStation to use Vue. In fact, I actually preferred using a Fire TV box to a console.Sarah Tew/CNET
Here's where it gets very interesting.
One of Sling TV's biggest weaknesses is the lack of most broadcast channels, namely ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS (for the record, CNET is published by CBS Interactive, a division of CBS). The exception is that Sling offers ABC for an extra $5/month in select cities.
In seven US cities Vue has four of the big five, lacking only PBS. In other cities, shows from those four networks are available on demand 24 hours after they air.
Vue doesn't have any channels owned by A&E Networks, but it does have most of the other familiar non-sports channels. Meanwhile Sling lacks pretty much any channel owned by CBS, NBC Universal/Comcast, Fox, Discovery and Viacom (Comedy Central, MTV and so on). That's a whole lot of desirable channels, and the fact that Sling skips them is the main reason it's only $20 per month.
Both services have channels from ABC (ESPN, The Disney Channel) Turner (TNT, TBS and others), AMC Networks (AMC, IFC, Sundance) and Scripps (HGTV, Food Network and others), and neither has PBS, BBC America, CSPAN, The Weather Channel and a handful of others.
With that in mind, here are the major channels missing from each service compared with a typical cable TV package.
Top Sling TV channels missing from PlayStation Vue
Top PlayStation Vue channels missing from Sling TV
Sling TV does have an advantage in the flexibility and low cost of its add-on packages, but there are few "must-have" channels among them.
Contrast that with Vue's step-up Core package, which adds select regional sports networks (the crown jewels of cable TV) in each city. For many cable subscribers and sports fans, RSNs are the ultimate must-have. The catch is that Vue might not have the RSN of the team(s) you want.
Of course, cable TV packages often have more than one RSN so they appeal to, for example, both Yankees and Mets fans in New York. Here's a sampling of channels you'll commonly find on cable TV that have yet to make their way onto either service.
Top channels missing from both Sling TV and PlayStation Vue
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