Tech for Life #6: Playstation Vue. The Future of Cable TV.

I hate cable. I hate how every time I turn it on a pop up tries to get me to buy on-demand. I hate that while HD is the standard, standard definition channels still exist and drown me in a mile long channel guide. I hate that there’s 1800 channels and I can never find anything to watch. I hate the outdated, fuzzy GUI interface. I hate the menu system, which is slow and illogical. I hate cable boxes that have the processing power of a calculator and I’m forced to pay $9.95 per month to house them. I. Hate. Cable.

About a year ago Verizon switched the cursor default when you turned on the cable box. Instead of starting at DVR (which makes sense), they moved it up to On Demand because screw you. I imagine the decision to make that change went something like this:

“What if we had it where they start at On Demand?”

“What do you mean, Bob?”

“They expect that––because they pay $100 a month––we’d let them dive right into live television or their DVR, right?

“Yes.”

“Well, what if instead we use muscle memory against them, so that when the turn on the TV and press ‘enter’––thinking they’ll dive into their DVR––they’ll go into On Demand?”

“I’d think that’d piss them off, Bob, and they’d think we’re being manipulative and kinda dicks.”

“But what if, in their anger, they say ‘fuck it’ and order a movie?”

(pause) “Go on . . .”

The horrible user experience has completely turned me against cable. Instead, I watch Netflix, Amazon Video, a little bit of Hulu, and rent movies. I only go to cable for sports.

Until now.

Recently Verizon was bought out by Frontier. And while I can only imagine how difficult it is for that transition, I’m a customer and that matters too. I love Verizon Fios Internet but (as stated above) their cable service . . . not so much.

But path of least resistance often wins and I’m a creature of habit. A few weeks ago my contract with Verizon was up so I called Frontier to renew. We scheduled the time for the tech and overall, it was a pleasant experience. But on the scheduled day, the tech didn’t show. I happened to speak to my cousin who lives a few miles away. His Frontier tech didn’t show up twice (as an aside, my cousin called the CEO’s office to complain and the CMO of Frontier called my cousin directly and immediately rectified the situation. So they mean well.).

But when I called Frontier they couldn’t find my order. It was as if my forty-five minutes on the phone with them a few weeks prior had never happened. And when I rebuilt the order for the channels I wanted, for some reason it was 30 bucks more than what I was quoted the first time.

So, enough. I had read about Playstation Vue. I use over-the-top services (Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Video) all the time and prefer them. I decided to give Playstation Vue a shot.

My verdict? If you have the bandwidth, Playstation Vue is revolutionary.

Here’s why:

Interface

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Once you understand the logic, everything Vue does makes sense. It turns cable into a Netflix-like experience, complete with thumbnails. You can look at a channel guide (a la old school cable) and low and behold, the channels are in alphabetical order. What a concept!

But it’s when you start using ‘favorites’ (favorite channels––or especially––favorite shows) that you are re-introduced to the amazing content available on cable TV, which has been buried and bloodied by the shitty-ass interface we’ve dealt with for years.

When you ‘favorite’ a show (I have little kids, so let’s use “Steven Universe” on Cartoon Network as an example.) it automatically records the shows via a cloud DVR and also shows you the episodes available On Demand. Additionally, it recommends shows based on your favorites across networks. I’ve been introduced to programs I would have never checked out. And by favoriting them, even more shows pop up.

 

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But now, it’s all right there. You turn on Playstation Vue, go to “Favorite Shows” and tiles of your favorite programs appear for you to select. It’s awesome.

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Profiles

You can also create profiles for each user. I haven’t done this because I’m the only one that flips on the television, but in essence, what I want to watch and what my kids want to watch is quite different. This allows each person to customize their favorite channels and shows.

Picture Quality

I purchased an Amazon Fire TV and have it plugged in to ethernet. The picture quality is very good. When I first got Fios, I thought the picture quality was amazing but over time it seemed to have gotten softer (possibly due to added compression). With fast Internet, Playstation Vue looks better.

No More Cable Boxes.

In addition to the Amazon Fire TV, I purchased two Amazon Fire sticks. I plugged them into our TV’s around the house, downloaded the Playstation Vue app, typed in my username and password, and the dishes were done: cable TV in my bedroom and garage. The only downside to the Fire Sticks is that they’re a little laggy (they’re wifi and part of it could be that I have old wifi hubs). But even with that, they’re great.

Channels

There are three packages. I chose Core, their mid-tier package, which is $45.00 a month and includes 75 channels, of which 65 are one’s we expect and are familiar with and the other 10 are regional sports channels. I’m a huge UFC fan so I needed Core for the Fox Sports channels.

We’re used to scrolling through a million channels, but how many of those do we ever use? For me, the Core package has everything I want. Now that I can easily sift through and find content, it’s amazing how much is out there. Before, I wouldn’t bother.

Having said that, if you are a sports nut and need something like NFL Red Zone, you may have to search elsewhere.

The Conclusion

I wonder if the cable companies look at Playstation Vue with fear or indifference. If it’s indifference, they’re idiots. The case study? Blockbuster Video. When Netflix emerged with their mail-order DVD service, all Blockbuster had to do was match it. That’s it. They had majority marketshare and if they had combo’d the in-store with mail order, Netflix would have vanished back into the ether––just another start-up with a good idea banished by the goliath who had more resources. But instead, Blockbuster did nothing until their final gasps. And now they’re gone.

If the cable companies don’t get their act together, they’ll be in the same boat. Playstation Vue is revolutionary. It makes me want to watch TV again. The $45.00 a month is a bargain for all the content it offers and the intelligence of its design. It is a compliment to programs, a search engine that puts the best that television has to offer right at your fingertips.

Before Playstation Vue, I would have said that cable TV is a dying industry. But it’s not – it’s just evolving. Repackaged into an elegant and modern interface, cable TV’s great. And it’s made me realize that networks will survive and so will commercials. It’s the cable providers that may go extinct.

Playstation Vue . . . get it!

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