Apple’s big announcement today has everyone fired up for a new Apple TV device. An App Store! Casual Gaming! Artificially intelligent Siri! But one rumored service was noticeably missing: Apple’s streaming TV service.
We’ve known for a while that the service keeps getting delayed, apparently due to behind-the-scenes deal-making conflicts between Apple and Fox, CBS and NBC. Apple wants its streaming service to be in the middle of current streaming package pricing such as Dish Network’s Sling TV (starting at $20/month) and Sony’s PlayStation Vue (starting at $49.99/month). But the networks think a $40/month price tag is too low. It’s hard to win over Old Media, even if you’re Apple. Meanwhile, the service is rumored to debut sometime next year.
Last year, we brought you the Streaming Dongle Showdown. Today, we’re serving up Gizmodo’s STREAMERSLAM *cue pyrotechnics and heavy metal* with a breakdown of three live TV streaming services, including what the current Apple TV has to offer.
Sling TV launched February 9 of this year and as of last month, had around 250,000 subscribers. As the least expensive plan, Sling TV’s Best of Live TV offers 23 channels for $20 a month. This includes ABC properties like ESPN and the Disney Channel.
There are plenty of add-on packages like Sports Extra and Lifestyle Extra, too, while Kids Extra adds more Disney channels and BabyTV. While you can’t get Showtime, you can get HBO for an added cost.
Sling TV offers the best global and Spanish language content of the three providers here, with add-on packages like Deportes Extra, Películas & Deportes Extra, España Extra and Colombia Extra; their World News Extra package adds access to news from France, India, Russia and more.
It’s also the most platform agnostic of the three services. If you have a device, you can most likely watch Sling TV. Unfortunately, Sling TV only lets one device access at a time, so your partner is going to have to wait to watch Ice Road Truckers if you’re watching Guy’s Grocery Games.
Sling TV offers a seven day free trial. Check out our review here.
Platforms: Amazon Fire TV Players, Roku LT and above, Nexus Player, phones and tablets running iOS 7 or Android 4.0.3 and above, Xbox One, or computers running Snow Leopard 10.6 or Windows 7 and above
Price: $20/month for a basic subscription + $5 to $7/month for extra packages + $15/month for HBO
Apple TV (current)
Apple TV has been around for a while, but has added many more channels over time. While there isn’t a streaming package available yet, there are a lot of channels that provide highlights, clips, full episodes and live TV for free. But to get the most out of your Apple TV right now, it’s best if you - ahem, or your parents - also have a cable package.
There are a lot of news channels that support some livestreaming for free, like CBS News, SkyNews, ABC News, Bloomberg and WSJ Live. The KORTV channel offers programming in both English and Korean, some paid and some not. And if you’re an anime buff, you can watch episodes on Crunchyroll or Sony’s Crackle for free. For sportsfans, there’s ESPN, and for the kids, there’s Disney, but only if you have cable, too. Luckily, PBS Kids is free on-demand.
Unfortunately, due to distribution rules, certain cable plans don’t work for certain channels, so if you want to livestream A & E as a Comcast Xfinity subscriber, you’ll have to use the regular-ol’ cable box.
You can only watch Apple TV on (surprise!) Apple TV, so it’s not the best for people who want their content on the go, unless that content was purchased through Apple. Apple TV as it is right now is very fragmented, so it’s hard to give an exact price for its use. Hopefully, it will become easier to manage when its streaming service launches as rumored in 2016.
Platform: Apple TV
Price: Free for some live streaming and on-demand content OR the cost of a cable plan from Xfinity, AT&T Uverse, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Verizon Fios and other companies. HBO, Showtime, sports packages and other channels are available at varying prices
PlayStation Vue launched March 18 for people living in Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia, later expanding to Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and the San Francisco Bay Area. Unfortunately, the service is still unavailable for the rest of the country.
Vue is a three tier subscription plan, starting with the Access plan - often including CBS, Fox, NBC, MyNetworkTV and Telemundo - and basic cable channels like CNN, Cartoon Network and Food Network. I say “often” because certain channels are not available in certain areas. The Core plan adds on a lot of local sports channels and a few other channels like IFC and Investigation Discovery. The Elite plan adds on even more specialized channels, like MTV Jams, TeenNick and CNBC World.
You can also add Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus to your subscription, or subscribe to them as standalone channels.
Noticeably absent are any of ABC’s channels, including ESPN and the Disney Channel. Channels with interesting distribution patterns are LOGO TV, which isn’t available in Chicago and SundanceTV, which isn’t available in Dallas.
Another advantage of Vue is that you can DVR shows. You just can’t watch them on your iPad. Unfortunately, your Vue subscription is tied to your IP address. So you can’t share it or use it anywhere but your house on PlayStation. You can leave with your iPad and still watch certain TV channels, but outside your place, channel availability may change.
Vue is the service that looks most like a cable subscription with its larger bundles and costs. But unless you own a PlayStation or an iPad and live in a certain geographic region, for now, you’re out of luck.
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, iPad 1st Generation and above or iPad 2 and later running iOS 7.0 or iOS 8.0
Price: $49.99/month for the Access subscription OR $59.99 for the Core subscription OR $69.99/month for the Elite subscription. Standalone channels include $14.99/month ($12.99/month for PlayStation Plus members) for Fox Soccer Plus OR $10.99/month ($8.99/month for PlayStation Plus members) for Showtime