Using PS3 apps like Pluto TV, Red Bull TV bring free live TV choices in 2017
So I’ve been giving tips this week to a friend who started using a PlayStation 3 for live streaming TV.
His Comcast bill just hit $200 per month. He had to do something about it. And he didn’t want to miss out on any Red Sox games.
He needed some help fast.
Cutting cable from his life seemed to make him feel a lot better about what he was paying every month. But buying a media streamer was out. He just plunked down some cold hard cash for a cable modem and router so he wouldn’t have to rent them anymore.
A PlayStation 3 actually has a lot more to offer a cord cutter in 2017 if you take a closer look. Before offering any advice, I dusted off my PS3, did a couple software updates and found things have changed.
You can stream a whole lot of free live TV, favorite shows and movies. You’re probably already aware that you can live stream premium channels on a PS3 through a PlayStation Vue account. You may even use the YouTube app quite a bit for streaming.
Forget about all that for a minute.
Let’s start off with the assumption that you might be dead broke. (My friend isn’t, but let’s assume you are.) You may also have a PS3 around from a few years ago that is collecting dust. You might have a dim memory of streaming something, but you can’t remember what.
It’s time to clean it off.
Best PS3 apps for streaming TV and music
A PlayStation 3 has some pretty decent hardware for a console that was released 10 years ago. The PS3 has a 3.2-GHz cell broadband engine, 256MB XDR Main RAM, a Ethernet port, Bluetooth capabilities and 802.11 b/g WiFi.
With a little know-how, you can use many TV remotes to control a PS3 through features like +anynet.
Once you fire up your PS3, find the PlayStation Store in your menu. Head down to the apps category. You may want filter your search results for just PS3 apps to avoid confusion. By the way, you might also find a decent movie under the rental section. The selection is recent. And the price is about the same as a Redbox rental.
If you want to be an old school cord cutter without any subscriptions, here are a few solid options for using PS3 for free live TV.
Pluto TV: Best PS3 app for free live TV
Pluto TV underwent a rebirth in the spring thanks to some new alliances with a number of major movie studios. The Pluto TV app on PS3 gives you access to 100+ live channels. That’s right. Free live TV, baby. You could easily mistake Pluto TV for a better version of cable. There are two big differences here. There’s an eclectic channel selection that’s more in tune with this era’s appetite for live TV. And you’re not paying for it.
My favorite channel is Live Music Replay. It’s easily one of the best sources around for free live music. For those of us old enough to remember, Live Music Replay has a working-out-of-somebody’s basement vibe that made MTV so cool in the 80s. You’ll find many episodes of The A.V. Club’s Undercover. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the channel’s fearless deep dive into the archives, turning out old blues concerts and rock performances that many of us haven’t seen in years.
The DocuTV channel will also have some live music options once and a while, too. I’m watching The Last Waltz as I’m writing this. Pretty sweet.
If that’s not your thing, you have Monstercat, the Electronic Music Channel. Pandora-styled channels also play music by the decade or genre.
If you need your daily news fix, there’s live feeds from CBSN and CNBC, and streams from NBC/MSNBC and niche outlets like Bloomberg Television and The Weather Network. There are channels for stand-up comedy, pro-wrestling and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Channels dedicated to true crime and horror are fun to check out.
I can’t help but think that all of this is served up with a dash of humor. I might be getting that sense from the some categories in the on-demand movie section. There’s “Strong Femalez”, “I’m Just Here For The Drama” and “What A Bunch of Weirdos” to name a few. These movies come from Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Warner Bros.
Red Bull TV: Best PS3 app for sports, live music
You don’t have to be into cliff diving to dig what Red Bull TV offers. I actually watch it for the live music festivals. This week, you will be able to stream a decent share of Lollapalooza 2017. In October, the Austin City Limits Music Festival will have portions their event streamed. Take that MTV!
Sports shows hew between National Geographic episodes and subculture explorations seen on Viceland. Shows like Chasing The Shot chronicles the adventures of photographer Matt Dunbar as he captures all the action of high performance surfing in New Zealand. If you love to travel, this show is definitely worth checking out for its stunning locales.
PLEX: Best PS3 app for a media server setup
If you have a Plex media server setup in your home, the Plex app on PlayStation 3 might be worth a try. You can’t stream live TV off this app. But during my brief tests, I was able to call up TV shows that I recorded on two servers that I have – a desktop PC and NVIDIA Shield TV.
Playing the shows was a different story. The HD picture was mint. But it had some lag. I would be interested to see how it would perform with an Ethernet connection, or a powerline adapter. At any rate, this is worth tooling around with if you need a client for Plex, but don’t want to spend the cash for one. Getting 50 feet of Ethernet cable is a lot cheaper than a new Roku or Amazon Fire TV.
HDHomeRun app: Stream Live OTA on PS3
Let’s say you do have some cash for a little more hardware. You might struggle with getting decent antenna reception from a second TV in your home because it’s in your basement or another spot that can’t be hooked up to an antenna or splitter.
Hook up a HDHomeRun Connect to your router, and download the HDHomeRun app to your PS3. Be sure to connect a decent antenna to your HDHomeRun tuner like a ClearStream Eclipse. Now, you have all the antenna channels that you can pull in from the other side of your house on that second TV.
The PS3 app for HDHomeRun doesn’t have the most beautiful user interface. It’s utilitarian at best – just a simple list of channels.
But in terms of picture quality, it’s as solid as any streaming app out there. A HDHomeRun Connect will also give you the ability to stream HD OTA channels to any device in your home network.
Best PS3 apps for streaming live news
CBSN is a free live streaming news channel that is unrivaled at the moment. It’s a standalone channel that gives you combination of around-the-clock coverage seen on cable news channels like CNN. You can find CBSN within the Pluto TV channel lineup, but their standalone app is really great on every device that I’ve tested.
CBSN also has sprinkled in segments from 60 Minutes and Sunday Morning in case you miss them during the week. I was a big fan of the CBS Evening News for quite a while, but now I’m a Lester Holt man again.
I miss you Scott Pelley!
Best subscription apps on PS3
Using PS3 to stream Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Video might be obvious. But what if you want to stream a channel on PS3 that doesn’t have an app?
If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, keep in mind that you can add channels that don’t necessarily have an app for PS3. So you can get channels like Showtime if you want to watch Ray Donovan, or Cinemax to watch Banshee. Other premium channels like Starz are also up for grabs with a bunch of others.
Here’s the list of more PS3 apps that stream content with a subscription.
CrunchyRoll (free or paid)
Tune In (free)
Once you start looking around, you will also notice some other free apps that I didn’t mention like TuneIn. For my friend, he’s going to be using his Vue account quite a bit so he can watch the Red Sox on NESN. But you (and he) should take a look around in the PlayStation Store to see what gems might also be worthwhile to expand your access to free live TV and music.
Where can I buy a PS3 console?
Rehabbing a PlayStation 3 won’t be for everyone. It’s a great way to use an older game console if you can’t or don’t want to spend money on a new media streamer like a Roku or Amazon Fire TV.
It might make more financial sense for you to pick up a HDHomeRun Connect if you have a PS3 and want to get OTA channels on a second TV where you can’t bring in a cable from an antenna.
If I were to buy a PlayStation 3 today, I’d recommend checking out listings on eBay first. There is a wide variety of PS3 models there, some which come with warranties. Be sure to check out the details on the warranties and return policies before you purchase anything. Newegg also sells refurbished PlayStation 3 models, including one for $89 and comes with a one year warranty.
eBay has also been a reliable source for me when I want to play a game that was a big deal a few years back – like Red Dead Redemption or Call of Duty Black Ops II. Many of these once pricey games now cost less than a tank of gas for your car.
Are you using a PlayStation 3 for streaming? What’s your favorite app or service? Let other readers know in the comments below.
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