Which internet-only TV service should Apple device owners use?

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2017
People truly wanting to cut the cord now have three major internet TV services to choose from: Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now. All of them support iOS devices and the Apple TV, among other platforms -- which one if any should you consider subscribing to?

Sling TV on an iPad.
Sling TV on an iPad.

Sling TV

Sling, owned by Dish, offers three different packages. The "Orange" level costs $20 per month and includes over 30 channels, most notably three ESPN stations for sports fans, and crowd favorites like AMC, Comedy Central, and Cartoon Network/Adult Swim.

For some people this will probably be enough -- the $25 "Blue" tier includes over 40 channels, with additions like Syfy, FX, NFL Network, and National Geographic, but sacrifices such as ESPN, Disney, and Free Form. There is a $40 "Orange + Blue" option, but that's probably overkill for what it delivers.

What may make more sense is adding one or more of the service's "Extra" bundles, covering areas like news, sports, and movies. Most of these are priced at $5 per month. "Premium" additions are more expensive however, costing up to $15 per month in the case of HBO, which is as much as that network charges for its standalone HBO Now service.

Sling offers a 7-day free trial, and discounts on streaming devices if you choose to prepay for a few months in advance. This includes the fourth-generation Apple TV, which can be had for $89 -- much less than the normal $149 -- if you sign up for three months.

There can certainly be drawbacks to the service. DVR functions are coming, but aren't here yet, and streaming quality has sometimes been rocky -- it can be perfect one day but interrupted the next. This has improved over time, thankfully.

Some people also aren't a fan of the service's carousel-style interface, which can make it awkward to see what's on and quickly flip between channels. It works, but just enough.

PlayStation Vue




Don't let the name fool you, this isn't a gaming-centric service. In fact this may be the strongest option for many people, if more expensive for the deluxe treatment.

A basic plan costs $29.99 per month but offers over 45 channels, including some that Sling reserves for its higher-end pacakges, like FX and Syfy. There are three other bundles, culminating in the $64.99 "Ultra Slim," which offers HBO and Showtime among its 90 channels.

The only add-ons necessary are usually Epix -- which is included in the top two tiers anyway -- and some Spanish-language channels from the likes of CNN and NBC. HBO and Cinemax are $15 each if they're not in a bundle, while Showtime is $10.99. Discounts are available for PlayStation Plus customers.

The Vue interface is likely preferable over Sling, highlight trending shows and making it easier to browse through favorites. Critically, Sony was the first to offer cloud DVR functions, saving shows for up to 28 days past their air date. This has been glitchy in the past -- and some shows may be off-limits, due to channel, program, or location restrictions -- but it's hard to ignore the convenience.

Like Sling, Vue offers a free week-long trial, but don't expect to pick up any free or cheap streaming devices as a bonus.

DirecTV Now




On paper, DirecTV Now should be an ideal service if you want quantity -- even its $35 plan covers more than 60 channels, in a lineup that looks more like a conventional cable bundle. Three other bundles offer over 80, 100, and 120 channels, costing $50, $60, and $70, respectively. HBO and Cinemax are simply $5 each, though you're already paying cable-like prices.

You can even get a fourth-gen Apple TV for free if you prepay for three months, which may certainly be tempting if you're in the market for a new service anyway.

DirecTV Now has been plagued with problems since it launched however, ranging from error messages and random sign-outs to streams simply stopping during peak hours. Problems got so bad that T-Mobile decided to drop the service from a promotion in favor of Hulu. There's no DVR functionality to boot.

AT&T is of course working to sort things out, but right now it's likely too much of a gamble for viewers. As usual, there is a 7-day trial, so it might be worth testing the waters as things improve.

The verdict

At the moment PlayStation Vue seems to be the best overall choice, especially because of its DVR support. Sling may still be worth checking out as the cheapest option, especially once it adds recording. DirecTV Now is best avoided unless it comes through in personal testing.

Remember also that yet more streaming services are on the horizon, such as YouTube Unplugged and Hulu's planned option. Apple's once-rumored service appears to have been stymied by negotiations, so don't expect that anytime soon, if ever.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    Macaholic1948Macaholic1948 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I have used Sling for several months. I despise the interface. While generally stable, it does have its bad moments. To get the channels I watch, I have to go with the Orange package plus. Costs me about $60. I am beta testing the DVR... which, at first blush, appears to work for some channels but not sports, where it would be truly useful. I can watch Sling on my phone, tablet, computer, or TV but only one divine at a time. 

    I am am currently testing Direct TV now, utilizing the introductory price plus Cinemax and HBO. Total cost of $45 plus a free Apple TV for paying 3 months in advance. With this package, I get a few channels that I like but cannot get on Sling. The interface, while not perfect, is a bit better in locating channels but less so in looking for prior shows that are still available. As noted, it had no DVR. Unitially, reception was very bugging with frequent interruption on Apple TV. But, on my iPhone, the service has been fairly stable all along. During the last month, the service has been acceptably stable. Like Sling, Direct TV Now is available on multiple devices. It can be viewed on two devices at the same time, which is particularly useful if one needs a bathroom break on a live event. 

    Both services work work well on LTE, WIFI and the internet. Sling seems to have better coverage for movies and previously aired shows. One oddity, an occasional film on TCM is not available for viewing on SLING. But, the same film can be viewed on DIrcet TV Now. 

    Most likely, I will dump Sling and keep Direct TV Now. 
    steveauAppleUfmyIredgeminipaeightzerostanthemanbrucemc
  • Reply 2 of 41
    I was wondering if there were limitations on the number of simultaneous streams.   At a minimum, I would like to save on multi-box rental fees.  I could work with 2 TVs streaming at the same time.   
  • Reply 3 of 41
    mwhitemwhite Posts: 184member
    I took the DirecTv Now for 3 months but have already canceled it my last day is March 9th I won't be sad to leave it because it's not a good service with no DVR...
  • Reply 4 of 41
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,678member
    Apple users should use which ever service they which to use, which includes none at all and multiple services.
    edited February 2017 freethinking
  • Reply 5 of 41
    RYC2000RYC2000 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    There are limitations to Direct TV Now because you cannot use the account to log into many of the network apps. For example, you cannot log into Comcast Sports Net. If you can log into the network apps, you might find that the show you missed is available and decrease the need for a DVR. For example, I don't even bother with the live channel of HBO. I just log into their app and watch there.

    I subscribe to Direct TV Now so I can stream on AT&T's cellular network without bandwidth limitations. Because of the inability to log into network's apps, I come to the conclusion that I can't give up Comcast.

    @AppleUfmyl, If you are talking about cable, there is a box called HD Homerun Prime where it will give you 3 tuners on your network and accessible from phones, tablets, computers, and Apple TV. It will require a cable card from the provider. Only drawback from this is no on-demand. 
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 6 of 41
    FatmanFatman Posts: 262member
    I've tried the basic tier ($35ish) DirectTV and Vue services using various devices. Neither will give you the quality,DVR capabilities, channel selection or ALL major networks that cable does - so at this time you get what you pay for. But if you must choose - get Vue for its DVR capabilities and DirectTV for its channel choice. Expect more glitches in reception with DirectTV. AppleTV offers most consistent streaming quality over FireTV and Roku - I've tried both services on all 3 devices. Ironically iPads, phones and computers edge out streaming devices. Both services, at least at the lowest price do not give you all (4) live major networks - so you will miss various MLB, NFL and award shows, etc.
    cali
  • Reply 7 of 41
    Barry MarshallBarry Marshall Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    None. I left TV in 95. Why would I want to import it on my Mac, now.
  • Reply 8 of 41
    I jumped on the DirecTV Now $35 promo, and paid for 3 months to get the Apple TV. There are some glitches from time to time, but it seems to be improving. I'm still not 100% sold at this point, so I may or may not keep it. We primarily use Netflix, and frequently Hulu. Sometimes we use Crackle, and other times Kodi on my MacBook via Airplay. I did recently get a survey request for the service, which asked questions about reliability and price, among other things. It also asked what would be needed for me to keep the service, listing several options that are frequently talked about, with price and DVR being among the options. One item I added to the notes section was the restriction of Single Sign-on. C|Net's review said it was included, but I couldn't get it to work. After some more digging, and a chat with DirecTV Now's customer service, I found it can't be done. That's a big letdown. It seems when C|Net did the review, it was originally planned to offer it (pre-release review), but it didn't make the cut.
  • Reply 9 of 41
    What's the point in 'channels'? That concept is a thing of the past in my house. 
    firelockStrangeDays
  • Reply 10 of 41
    I tried Sling a few months ago. The interface was confusing and there was pixelation and commercials would get stuck in a loop.

    I tried PlayStation Vue. The interface was better, but still not as "easy" as the STB/TiVo interfaces I used for decades. The video quality and stability were excellent.

    I tried DirecTV Now on their 3-for-$35 with free Apple TV promotion. The interface was better still, but I was never able to watch a single, complete episode of ANYTHING during the first two months without some type of error occurring. It took multiple chats with customer service, a charge dispute with my credit card company, and a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, but I finally got a full refund. I'm confident/hopeful it will eventually work as advertised, but I refused to continue to pay for a service that didn't function properly.

    At this point, Sling isn't a consideration for me. PS Vue was the most stable, but DirecTV offered the most channels (that I watch). Currently, I no longer use any of them and have no immediate plans to re-subscribe. If I were forced to choose one right now, it would be PS Vue.
    stantheman
  • Reply 11 of 41
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,142member
    What's the point in 'channels'? That concept is a thing of the past in my house. 
    Just wait, before long they'll be introducing commercial breaks and it will be heralded as the latest and greatest idea! ;)
    monstrosity
  • Reply 12 of 41
    You may be right as to price and content but Sony VUE are crooks liars and thieves and I would never again trust them with my credit cards. we used the 7 day trial, cancelled on the app, cancelled by phone and three months later noticed they were still charging $69+. No place on their website to cancel, refused to give back the money, had to go to Wells Fargo to get money back and so then then, banned me until I gave them the money back!  CROOKS, LIARS AND DAMN LIARS!  NEVER GOING TO BUY ANOTHER PRODUCT FROM SONY AGAIN.  PS.  DID I SAY THEY WERE CROOKS LIARS AND DAMN THIEVES?

  • Reply 13 of 41
    I got the special offer for 3 months of DirecTV with Apple TV 4 included. It works fine, with just an occasional stutter in a stream. I have a FIOS 150/150 connection so that might help. But as one of the other posters alluded to above, I just can't go back to watching TV like this. I cut the cord back in 2010 and trying to go back to watching TV like this is painful and weird. My kids who have mostly been brought up with streaming only services don't get it at all. I still have three weeks left on the 3 month trial but we haven't used the service in weeks and I suspect will not again before the subscription ends. (And, yes, I have already canceled.) But we did get an ATV4 out of the deal for cheaper than it would have cost to buy it.
    redgeminipa
  • Reply 14 of 41
    herbert68herbert68 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I won't subscribe to any of these three – and any other – services until they drop the expensive "bundle" model. I just want to pay for channels I will actually watch. Imagine you are in a restaurant and you're asked to choose from "bundles" in the menu, including items you can't or won't like to eat – would anyone actually want to do that?
    horvaticxmhillx
  • Reply 15 of 41
    mpmarty said:
    You may be right as to price and content but Sony VUE are crooks liars and thieves and I would never again trust them with my credit cards. we used the 7 day trial, cancelled on the app, cancelled by phone and three months later noticed they were still charging $69+. No place on their website to cancel, refused to give back the money, had to go to Wells Fargo to get money back and so then then, banned me until I gave them the money back!  CROOKS, LIARS AND DAMN LIARS!  NEVER GOING TO BUY ANOTHER PRODUCT FROM SONY AGAIN.  PS.  DID I SAY THEY WERE CROOKS LIARS AND DAMN THIEVES?

    I'm going to blame you and call it user error. I've signed up the PlayStation Vue multiple times on several emails to use the 7 day trail. Never once had a issue canceling the service. It was right there on the website easy to see and easy to cancel. 
  • Reply 16 of 41
    herbert68 said:
    I won't subscribe to any of these three – and any other – services until they drop the expensive "bundle" model. I just want to pay for channels I will actually watch. Imagine you are in a restaurant and you're asked to choose from "bundles" in the menu, including items you can't or won't like to eat – would anyone actually want to do that?
    That's not going to happen anytime soon if ever. 
    horvatic
  • Reply 17 of 41
    mpmarty said:
    You may be right as to price and content but Sony VUE are crooks liars and thieves and I would never again trust them with my credit cards. we used the 7 day trial, cancelled on the app, cancelled by phone and three months later noticed they were still charging $69+. No place on their website to cancel, refused to give back the money, had to go to Wells Fargo to get money back and so then then, banned me until I gave them the money back!  CROOKS, LIARS AND DAMN LIARS!  NEVER GOING TO BUY ANOTHER PRODUCT FROM SONY AGAIN.  PS.  DID I SAY THEY WERE CROOKS LIARS AND DAMN THIEVES?

    I'm going to blame you and call it user error. I've signed up the PlayStation Vue multiple times on several emails to use the 7 day trail. Never once had a issue canceling the service. It was right there on the website easy to see and easy to cancel. 
    I'm going to concur that this is a rare, unintended occurrence. DirecTV NOW has been accused of billing people for their "free" trials. I never had any billing problems with any of the three.
  • Reply 18 of 41
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,847member
    herbert68 said:
    I won't subscribe to any of these three – and any other – services until they drop the expensive "bundle" model. I just want to pay for channels I will actually watch. Imagine you are in a restaurant and you're asked to choose from "bundles" in the menu, including items you can't or won't like to eat – would anyone actually want to do that?
    Keep dreaming. Complete Ala cart will never happen because the content owners/creators often own multiple networks and they will be bundled together in order to manage for advertising. And yes, restaurants offer "bundles" all the time. Special price for a very limited selection of appetizer, entree and desserts. So yes, there are options for different types of consumers.
    horvaticStrangeDays
  • Reply 19 of 41
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,869member
    I tried both SLING and DirectVNow. Both have intermittent streaming issues. If SLING provides same channels as DirectVNow than I would keep SLING. DirectvNow at $35 for around 100 channels is best selection among three streaming services except lacking DVR..I would keep SLING if they combine world news and lifetime packages into blue package for $30. or allow $0.99-$1.99 for extra each channel on top of blue they have bundled into $5 each extra packages. People want ala-carte but if there is enough flexibility into their package offerings than I am sure more users will subscribe one of these services.
    edited February 2017
  • Reply 20 of 41
    DirecTVNOW was virtually unusable for the first two full months. It is finally stabilized and is working. It is missing features, not only those available on other platforms, but those originally promised and paid for. 
    andrewmacmaster
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