Everything you need to know to compare DirecTV Now vs PlayStation Vue
If you’re thinking about joining the 6 million people who have cancelled their cable or satellite service since 2010, there’s some good news ahead.
Cutting the cord is dead simple.
Cable alternatives like DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue have robust channel lineups with live sports on ESPN and premiums networks like HBO. These channels were once exclusive to cable and satellite subscriptions.
Much has changed with the way you can watch TV, especially in the last year. And more changes and improvements to live streaming TV are on the way, including plans for 4K HDR video quality.
This guide comparing DirecTV Now vs PlayStation Vue gives you the latest breakdown of channel lineups in an easy-to-understand overview. You will know about nearly all the features and options that will best fit your needs once you finish reading.
How does DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue work?
DirecTV Now is among the newest players that stream bundles of popular channels like AMC, A&E and History Channel over the Internet. PlayStation Vue has been in the live streaming game since March 2015.
Consider your pricey cable or satellite subscription as the old way getting these channels. Live streaming TV can be customized a bit more, and cost you less. I wouldn’t call it an a la carte system, but it’s as close as you’re going to get with premium channels.
The only two things you need to begin live streaming TV is an Internet connection and a streaming device like a Roku.
DirecTV Now vs PlayStation Vue free trial offers
Before cancelling your cable subscription, try out DirecTV Now, or PlayStation Vue with a free trial. If you own a Roku or other popular streaming device, you may already have the hardware you need for live streaming TV. PlayStation Vue has a free 5-day trial.
DirecTV Now has a free 7-day trial with no obligation or contract. In fact, neither service ever has a contract if you decide to use it long term.
How do I watch DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue?
There are official apps for DirecTV Now on Roku, and Amazon Fire TV. If you own a smart TV that runs on Android TV software, you can check for a PlayStation Vue app. As of this writing, DirecTV Now does not have a native app for Android TV software. Instead, you can cast the mobile DirecTV Now app from your smartphone or tablet to your television.
Here’s a list of compatible devices that will stream DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue.
Roku streaming devices & Roku TVs: Just about any make or model can stream DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue. For Roku TVs, DirecTV Now recommends using an Insignia 4K Roku TV (model: 7000k), TCL 4K Roku TV (model 7000X); Roku Streaming Stick (model: 3600); Roku 4, Roku Premiere, Premiere+ and Ultra. Roku Express and Express+ also work along with older models like Roku 2 and 3. You can check to see if there are any additional models added by DirecTV Now’s help section.
Android/Android TV: Amazon Fire TV, Android phones and tablets can stream DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue. There’s a difference between Android and Android TV. Smart TVs or media streamers powered by Android TV software have a native app for PlayStation Vue, but not DirecTV Now. Android smartphones and tablets require software version 4.4 or higher.
Apple: Apple TV (4th generation)
Compatible browsers: Chrome (version 50+ or higher), and Safari 8+ for DirecTV Now. PlayStation Vue works with any Windows 10 or Safari browser.
Game consoles: PlayStation Vue works on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. NVIDIA Shield TV has a native app for PlayStation Vue, and can use its built-in Chromecast to watch DirecTV Now from a smartphone or tablet app.
Can you record shows on DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue?
PlayStation Vue was the first to bring Cloud DVR to market. Instead of saving a show or movie to your cable box or TiVo, it is stored to a remote server. So with Vue, you’re not limited to how many shows or movies you can save. Whatever you do save will only remain for 28 days before being erased. Saving or “recording” a show is more like bookmarking a web page with Vue. The entire season of a show will be saved automatically as it airs. There is no additional charge for Cloud DVR on PlayStation Vue. It comes with all four channel bundles that you can choose from for a subscription.
DirecTV Now begins beta testing its own Cloud DVR this summer. It was announced in July along with plans for 4K HDR video quality in 2018. It’s unknown whether DirecTV Now will be included with subscriptions, or will come at an added cost. One thing is for sure. DirecTV Now has been aggressive in attracting customers with its features, channel lineups and special offers like the free trial that I mentioned earlier.
Advantages DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue over traditional cable
There are no contracts when you use DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue instead of a cable provider like Comcast or Spectrum. There are no hidden fees that suddenly pop up on your monthly bill. You might have to pay taxes, depending on where you live in the U.S. But that’s it.
If you don’t like one service, simply cancel it by hopping online and logging into your account. You don’t have to spend a bunch of time on the phone with a customer service representative, who is trying to talk you out of cancelling.
You can try a new streaming service just as easy. Some people jump from service to service throughout the year so they can catch all the sports, or their favorite TV shows. Here’s a way to think about the new era of TV. You may want a channel like A&E, but if you look at when a new season of your favorite show actually runs, you may realize that you only need the channel for a few months of the year. Or you might decide you need it for all 12 months. Either way, you have true flexibility with no hassles.
Just switch up what you have between different services as you please. Try doing that with a Comcast subscription.
Once you try out live streaming TV, you will notice all the junky home-shopping channels and similar ilk are gone. You don’t have to hunt down that channel you really like that is tucked between the non-stop infomercials shilling cleaning products and age-defying creams and lotions.
PlayStation Vue is owned by Sony. DirecTV Now is owned by AT&T. They know that the much-sought-after 18-to-35 age demographic won’t tolerate these kinds of garbage channels. This group is barely interested in the traditional cable lineup. So we all get to drop those lousy channels that are included in a traditional cable package thanks to them.
DirecTV Now vs PlayStation Vue channel lineups: which is better?
Deciding which live streaming service is best for you comes down to priorities. Sports fans are likely better off with PlayStation Vue, especially since they just announced a new Sports Pack package this month.
If you can’t live without a single episode of American Pickers on the History Channel, then you will want a DirecTV Now subscription. Before comparing the channel lineups of PlayStation Vue vs DirecTV Now, we need to talk about premium standalone channels like HBO for a moment.
If you can’t live without HBO or Showtime, there’s some money to be saved. And I don’t want you to miss out on it.
Getting HBO, Showtime on DirecTV Now vs PlayStation Vue
DirecTV Now currently has the best deal for HBO, Cinemax and Starz. You can add HBO or Cinemax for $5 per month. Starz is $8 per month.
With PlayStation Vue, you can add HBO and Showtime, but it’s not necessarily the best value. I suggest you shop around for those particular channels if you’re going with a PlayStation Vue subscription. You’ll find that you can better customize your channel lineup, and save money.
Here’s a quick example of what I mean.
Let’s say you’re considering a PlayStation Vue subscription. You think you can get almost everything you need for $39.99 per month. But geez, you’d really like to catch the latest season of Ray Donovan on Showtime. Using your Vue subscription to get Showtime would require you to bump up to the Vue Ultra channel bundle. That costs $74.99 per month. Yikes!
You could easily go to the Showtime website and get a standalone subscription for about $10.99 per month instead. Not bad. You can knock off a couple more bucks a month if you’re already an Amazon Prime subscriber. By subscribing to Showtime via Amazon Channels, you can get your Ray Donovan fix along with all of Showtime’s other offerings for $8.99 per month. Amazon offers a 30-day free trial of Prime.
HBO is probably going to cost you $14.99 no matter where else you go with the exception of DirecTV Now. That’s fine. Just keep in mind that you can still go elsewhere for certain standalone channels. With a little homework, you might be able to save a few bucks per month.
Channel lineup: PlayStation Vue vs DirecTV Now
Now let’s dive into what you get with an entry-level channel lineup. Like I said earlier, finding the best channel selection will come down to your priorities. Think about what you really watch. My wife and I actually made a list before settling on a subscription. Your cable provider may have driven the belief into you that more is better. That’s not necessarily the case. Consider the value that you are getting for every dollar that you spend, whether it’s $40 per month or $400.
DirecTV Now has four channel bundles, and so does PlayStation Vue. Here’s a breakdown of each.
Live a Little vs Access
Live a Little (DirecTV Now: 60+ channels for $35 per month): The entry-level channel lineup for DirecTV Now is a pretty attractive one because it’s so well rounded. It’s about $5 cheaper than PlayStation Vue’s entry level package. A&E Networks, including the History Channel can be found here. You will get Fox Sports 1, ESPN and ESPN2. Bravo, HGTV and FX is also in the mix. Viacom channels including MTV, MTV2 and Spike are included. And you will have a wide selection of news channels including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.
Access (PlayStation Vue: 48+ channels for $39.99 per month): You’ll get Animal Planet, three Disney channels. ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 rounds out the sports lineup. Cartoon Network, Discovery Family, National Geographic, Travel Channel and USA Network are all up for grabs here. National Geographic and Science Channel are two standouts worth mentioning because they generally are viewed as upper tier channels by some cable companies. In other words, you would have to pay for a more expensive cable subscription to get these channels. Most of Vue’s channel lineup recently increased in price by $10 per month. This channel bundle still holds a lot of value compared to a cable subscription.
My pick: DirecTV Now – Live a Little for $35 per month. You’ll get a nice variety of channels and more of them for less money.
Just Right vs Core
Just Right (DirecTV Now: 80+ channels for $50 per month): When you subscribe to the “Just Right” bundle, you open the possibility of getting Regional Sports Networks (RSN) in your area. You will also have RSN options with the next two pricier bundles as well. What RSNs you get depends on where you live. DirecTV Now has a RSN search engine that you can use by entering your zip code. For adding another $15 to your Live a Little lineup, you will pick up a couple of great movie channels, IFC and Sundance TV. MLB Network, Tennis Channel and SEC Network get added for sports.
Core (PlayStation Vue: 62+ channels for $44.99 per month): Sony sweetens the pot for an extra $5 per month compared to Access, especially for sports fans. You’ll get possible RSNs along with Big Ten Network, ESPN News, ESPN U, MLB Network, NBA TV, and NFL Network. There are non-sports gems too like IFC and Turner Classic Movies.
My pick: PlayStation Vue – Core for $44.99 per month. Getting all those added sports channels outweighs the value of the few additions you will find in Just Right. You pick up IFC and Sundance TV as well in Vue’s Core for less money.
Go Big vs Elite
Go Big (DirecTV Now: 100+ channels for $60 per month): Centric, Destination America, Discovery Family Channel and Discovery Life channel are added for the extra $10 per month. Fox Sports 2 makes it debut into the lineup along with NHL Network and Golf Channel. FXM, Lifetime Movie Channel, Logo, MTV Classic and Nat Geo WILD are added here.
Elite (PlayStation Vue: 92+ channels for $54.99 per month): Movie channels like Chiller, Epix Hits, FXM, MGM HD, Sony Movie Channel are added to the lineup. You will see a wider selection of lifestyle channels like Cooking Channel and three Fox College Sports channels. These college sports channels carry college football and basketball. Elite fills out its channel lineup nicely with the addition of BBC World News, Outside TV and Fusion.
Gotta Have It vs Ultra
Gotta Have It (DirecTV Now: 120+ channels for $70 per month): There’s 8 Starz Encore channels in this channel lineup. Each one is genre or location specific: Action, Black, East, Family, Classic, Suspense, West, and Westerns. El Rey Network, which has grindhouse-style movies, is on this bundle. So isn’t horror-themed Chiller, which has great, sometimes campy flicks from the 70s and 80s.
Ultra (PlayStation Vue: 92+ channels with HBO and Showtime for $74.99 per month): The channel lineup here is the same as Elite, but with HBO and Showtime added.
My pick: DirecTV Now — Gotta Have It for $70 per month. There is no HBO in this bundle unless you add it for $5, but you do have eight other premium channels with the Encore ensemble. So even if you chipped in the $5, you’d get a better value than Vue’s Ultra bundle.
Are there local channels on DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue?
Both Vue and DirecTV Now have been adding many local channels all over the U.S. It’s really the hottest asset that is being pursued right now in the world of live streaming TV. At last count, DirecTV Now was up to about 100 local channels across the U.S.
When you go to the PS Vue site to look over plans, it draws upon your Internet protocol address to show you what local channels are available in your area. With DirecTV Now, you can use their local channel search engine on their site. Just type in your zip code to see what channels are available.
I personally rely on a good ol’ TV antenna for my local channels. You can tap into uncompressed HD channels in many parts of the U.S. You may notice that the HD channels look better than the locals you get through your cable subscription. Read my guide on how to choose the best TV antenna. You will be able to figure out what will work best for you based on where you live.
Does DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue have on-demand?
Yes. Both DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue have shows and movies on demand. But I wouldn’t depend on it feature to catch up on a whole season of a particular show.
On DirecTV Now, you might find every episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. But head over to Viceland, and you won’t be so lucky with Needles & Pins. You may get a number of episodes with one missing. It’s pretty much the same story with PlayStation Vue.
There is another option for you to catch up on shows that I will talk about in a minute.
DirecTV Now does stand out for its on-demand movie selection. It’s big, broken down into genres and prominently featured in the main menu of the app. It’s probably one of the better value-added aspects of the service.
Now let’s talk about catching up on shows.
Can I authenticate apps with DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue?
Apps are a great way to catch up on a season of your favorite show. Once you have a subscription to DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue, it’s going to open up another world of content. These apps are commonly referred to as TV Everywhere apps. Just use your DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue to sign into an app and you can often find either full seasons of a show or a live TV stream that even works outside of your home. Some networks are better than others with keeping up a full season of a show. That’s because the rights may have been sold to appear elsewhere.
TV Everywhere apps can still be a big help. I was able to watch all of Season 1 of Hap & Leonard on Netflix. I quickly caught up to Season 2 on my AMC app (using PlayStation Vue to sign in.) While binge watching those seasons, I “recorded” Season 3 with my PlayStation Vue subscription. Remember that you need to actually subscribe to the channel in order to log in to the app.
Here’s a quick glimpse below of apps available to you with both DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue.
TV Everywhere apps with a DirecTV Now subscription
BTN2GO (Big Ten Network)
CSN New England
FOX Sports Go
MLB Network (Web only)
MLB.com At Bat (App only)
The Olympic Channel
SundanceTV (Web only)
TV Everywhere apps for PlayStation Vue
PlayStation Vue has the largest number of apps that you can authenticate. Roughly 81 as of August 2017. There is also an unofficial app login list maintained by some Vue
subscribers on Reddit.
ABC On Demand
FOX On Demand
Fox College Sports Atlantic
Fox College Sports Central
Fox College Sports Pacific
Fox Soccer Plus
Fox Sports Net (regional)
Fox Sports 1
Fox Sports 2
Longhorn Network (regional)
Nat Geo Wild
NBC On Demand
One World Sports
Sony Movie Channel
Can I watch DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue on more than one TV?
On PlayStation Vue, you can live stream on up to five devices at once. You can only have one game console streaming at a time with Vue. But if you have a PlayStation 3 streaming in one room, and a PlayStation 4 in another, then you’ll be fine.
DirecTV Now subscribers can stream on up to two devices simultaneously.
Can I stream DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue on my smartphone or PC?
Yes. Both DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue have mobile apps. The mobile version of PlayStation Vue performs really well, but your channel selection is limited somewhat due to licensing agreements with networks.
DirecTV Now gives you the fuller channel lineup, and also performs really well on a mobile device. I can stream PS Vue and DirecTV Now mobile apps on a Galaxy S5, and the streaming is as smooth as anything you watch on TV.
You can also stream PlayStation Vue on a PC, but be aware that channel selection may be limited. That’s especially true if you are streaming outside of your home network. It’s another reason why TV Everywhere apps are so valuable.
DirecTV Now subscribers don’t have those same restrictions. The ability of watching TV on the go is really one of DTVN’s strengths.
Do I need a fast Internet connection for DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue?
No. Don’t believe the hype on needing a fast Internet connection for streaming. DirecTV Now even tells users that only 2.5 to 7.5 Mbps download is recommended for HD quality on your TV. For mobile devices, they recommend 2.5 Mbps. Shows in HD will play 720p or better with the recommended download speed on web browsers.
Sony recommends at least 10Mbps for PlayStation Vue.
What’s the best way to live stream DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue?
The new Roku app for DirecTV Now has a nice user interface. That’s a surprise considering Roku is generally better for app selection, but primitive when it comes to the menus once you are inside an app.
Amazon Fire TV is also a good choice for DirecTV Now, but I found that Roku seemed to have an easier time streaming. Casting a live stream of DirecTV Now onto a NVIDIA Shield TV was also pretty smooth, but I would prefer to have a native app to use.
Amazon Fire TV is without question the best device for streaming PlayStation Vue. NVIDIA Shield TV has a very similar interface, but comes at a higher price. Streaming PS Vue on Roku is fine as far as picture quality. But like I just said, I’m not crazy about the menus.
Looking ahead: DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue
DirecTV Now should have their Cloud DVR function up and running for general use late this year. Parent company AT&T also announced plans to deliver 4K HDR picture quality by 2018. Sony representatives have said that they’re also planning on 4K picture quality in the future, but it won’t be happening that soon, according to Dwayne Benefield, a vice president at PlayStation Vue.
Sony added a multi-screen feature for PS4 users geared toward simultaneous sporting events like March Madness. “With features, we want to stay ahead of the game,” Benefield said in a recent interview. He added that Sony closely monitors data from what customers watch and record in order to decide how to grow the PS Vue platform.
Is DirecTV Now better than PlayStation Vue?
If you’re a big sports fan, a PlayStation Vue subscription will make more sense to you. Want full mobile access and an experience that’s closer to cable? Then DirecTV Now is the way to go.
Again, this comes back to your priorities.
I’ve been using PlayStation Vue for a year and a half and I love the service. But with the recent price hike of $10 per month, I am shopping around. I got a free trial of DirecTV Now and I’m really enjoying what they offer.
With Cloud DVR and 4K HDR on the horizon, I think DirecTV Now will probably be a better value in the long run. Their entry-level tier has 60+ channels for $35 per month. My friend just signed up for PlayStation Vue because he wants NESN to watch Red Sox games. That was a great move for him because he was paying $200 per month to Comcast just to watch his favorite baseball team. He also got himself a less expensive Internet connection ($29.99 per month for 50 mbps download) by following the steps in Cord Cutting 2018: the definitive guide.
If you cut the cord and tried out either service, let readers know about your experience in the comment section below. Have a question? Leave one in the comments section, and good luck!
MENTIONED IN THIS GUIDE
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble