Depressed mature man holding paper and looking at it while sitting on the couch at home

Are Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, and PlayStation Vue Going to Turn into Evil Cable 2.0?


Depressed mature man holding paper and looking at it while sitting on the couch at homeYesterday we talked about what it means to be a cord cutter, and if you can be a cord cutter and still subscribe to services such as Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW.

That kicked off a conversation about how long it will be before we see services such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DIRECTV NOW demanding long-term contracts and skyrocketing fees. Are we just seeing cable 2.0 in the early stages?

We decided to take a closer look at the future of live TV streamed online.

How did cable get to the way it is now?

To understand why streaming TV and cable TV are different, you need to look back at the deals cable TV made with cities. Cable TV started back in 1948 but didn’t really get big until the 1960s and 1970s. I remember when we first got cable TV in the 1980s. During this growth cable TV struck deals with cities to only allow one cable company per market.

That allowed cable to control access for many years until satellite services would get rights to market local channels in the 1990s. Later on you may have had an option from your phone company. In total that meant that, at best, a home owner would have three or four options for pay TV.

This allowed the current market conditions to create cable TV as we know it today. When there is no true competition it allows companies to do as they please.

Why is live TV streaming different from cable TV?

Right now there are four live TV streaming services available nationwide: Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DIRECTV NOW, and Fubo TV. There is also a fifth, YouTube TV, available in some areas. There are also others (that we know of) about to get into the live TV market including Hulu, Comcast, Verizon, Vidgo, and Centurylink.

So right now there are nine live TV services and three or four traditional pay-TV services available to most Americans. This is a very different market than the one that created cable TV.

With no contracts and a long list of services to pick from cable companies can no longer just force you to pay whatever they want. They will be forced to fight for customers by offering better service and better deals.

What about Internet? Can’t they just use Internet to do the same thing?

The fear many cord cutters have is that Internet price will skyrocket. A well-founded fear as many Americans only have one or two options for Internet in their home.

Yet that is slowly changing as more fiber networks such as Google, Ting, and SFN are rolling out fiber. You are also finding Internet resellers such as Toast.net offering data cap free Internet options for your home.

You also see a big push into 5G that is already starting to roll out in 2017. 5G Internet will give fiber Internet speeds without the need to run fiber to every house. Right now Google, DISH, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter all have 5G test networks live or in the works. Currently the goal is to have half of the United States covered with 5G by the end of 2020.

That would mean that the average Internet option for Americans will move from one or maybe two to five or more options and up to as many as ten options in the next 3 or so years.

We are already seeing this happening for cellphones. A flood of prepaid companies have forced Verizon and AT&T to bring back unlimited data plans and increase the data cap on other plans. The growing list of prepaid options such as Straight Talk have also started to offer less expensive options.

We will likely see the same thing happen to Internet providers in your home; however, you are still 2 or 3 years from this really taking hold.

What does this all mean?

First do not worry about the future of cord cutting. If one service gets silly and starts to put crazy terms on its services just switch.

Even more importantly there was cord cutting before live TV streaming services and there will be after. As more sports and live events become free online and next-day access to shows grows the need for live TV will slowly decrease.

The combination of a long list of services to pick from and growing on-demand options are putting control in the hands of cord cutters. Add in the fact that you will soon have a growing list of Internet options and that will remove the fear of skyrocketing costs and data caps, but we are still 2 or 3 years from that becoming a reality for most Americans.

Don’t worry! Live TV streamed through services such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DIRECTV NOW will never have the power that traditional pay TV had back in the 1990s and 2000s.

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  • Pebo Bryson

    I hope you’re right about internet options. I and many others only have one viable ISP option in our areas.

  • bobinc

    I say short answer yes. It may not be one of the current forms out there but it will happen.

  • TH20

    Having cut cable for sling, then Play Station Vue all I can say is be careful what you wish for. The performance and user experience is horrible. It does save you money if you really only want a few channels, but you’ll get so much less, including a slow, clunky, infuriating user experience. The DVR, while better then nothing, is poor quality unless you agree to commercials that you can’t skip past. It takes about 5 minutes from the time you select Vue and can actually watch something, and the response to the remote is like dial up. I’ve had more issues with the service in a week, than I had with cable for the last 10 years. I’m putting up with it now because I’m trying to watch less TV, but the sports is the real killer, no PAC 12 network, no local sports, etc. all I took for granted with cable. While only $35 dollars, they still manage to make the packages just one or two channels short to get you to upgrade to the next, but unless you had no choice, why pay $60-70 ( and you still don’t get Comedy Central, Pac-12 network or local sports) dollars for a sub par experience?

    • Todd

      That’s the beauty of cord cutting. If one service isn’t working as expected, you can switch to another for a better experience. If live sports is a concern, Fubo is designed for sports enthusiasts. If speed is the issue, that could be any number of things like the speed of your internet connection, WiFi connectivity if your device is using wireless, the age and condition of the device itself, and whether that streaming device is snappy enough to run Vue. The Amazon Firestick, for example, has known performance issues when using Vue. If that’s the device you have, you might consider switching to a FireTV (the box, not the stick) or an Android TV device.

      • Jim Barnes

        I use the Fire TV box and have no issues with PS Vue

    • Joseph ewing

      Sorry you’re having issue with Playstation Vue.

      I have been using it for about 6 months, and while it took me a while to warm up to the interface, I could never go back to cable now. Setting up favorite shows and channels has been really helpful to me. But it is – admittedly – an acquired taste.

      I am concerned about your speed issues, as I don’t see those. I run Vue on 6 TVs in my house, all running 2016 version Roku Streaming Sticks. Vue loads the initial Home Screen in about 20-30 seconds, and after that is very snappy. The DVR is quite functional, albeit at low resolution. As for commercials, some streams allow fast forward and some don’t. I believe these limitations are contractual issues with the owner of the content (Luke could elaborate I believe).

      As Todd states below, the quality of your internet connection is paramount. I recently upgraded my router to a AmpliFi Mesh system and I can run Vue on 4-5 TVs simultaneously with no issue.

      Roku has a speed test channel that works like Speedtest.net in a browser. Whatever hardware you are using, I’d try to find something similar and see what kind of bandwidth you are getting at your TV.

      Lots of us here are happy to assist you in troubleshooting. Stop back and let us know how things work. If you don’t mind, would you share out your hardware configuration? Internet Speed? Are you really getting that speed you are paying for? Router make/model? Smart TV? Roku? Fire Stick? Apple TV? You get the idea.

      Sorry about the sports, BTW. Nothing will fix this if it doesn’t have the content you want. As Todd stated, that’s the beauty of Cord Cutting. Lots of options so everyone can get what they want….and only what they want….to save $$$.

      Good luck.

      • TH20

        I have the Roku stick, a Roku 2 and a fire stick, I’ve tried all three. The Roku stick is completely unusable, the Roku 2 and fire stick seem about the same, which is odd since the Roku stick is generally better than the fire stick for Netflix and Amazon prime. It’s not the internet connection, I have a 30 Mb connection and the router is about 2 feet from the devices. it does Netflix and amazon prime with zero issues, also once it starts streaming there is never an issue, no buffering and the quality is very good. I’ll take your advice and see what the speed test says, although I would think if it can stream without issues, the BW is sufficient. Now my Roku stick is at least a couple years old, but it’s FW is up to date. I think the only thing I could try’s is another device, although, I’m not to crazy about buying yet another streaming device just because this one app doesn’t work.

    • Rucknrun

      I am happy with PS Vue. I can watch it on any tv without paying for a rental fee for a box. The DVR works well. I am not having the performance issues you are seeing. It fires right up for me on my android tv. I Have learned to live without a lot of live sports and I don’t really miss the Viacom channels.

    • Gardo

      I’m going to take a wild guess, are you using a Fire TV stick?? If you are I understand your frustration with Playstation Vue the Fire TV stick is the worst device for Playstation Vue, I would change it with the FireTV box and believe me the difference will be huge.

      • Rucknrun

        First Gen Fire Stick is terrible for sure. 2nd gen is much better. Same with the Roku sticks.

    • Bruce Wayne

      You must not be using it on a PS4 which offers the best watching experience by miles. Super responsive and fast.

    • Omen_20

      Everything you said is incorrect. From a fresh load, Vue takes maybe 20 seconds max to start streaming video. If you put your PS4 to sleep with Vue still on, it will stream immediately. The interface is SO much faster than the awful cable boxes from Comcast. It’s the main reason I switched.

      • TH20

        No, everything I said is correct, you think I’m lying? Obviously this was designed to work with a PS4, good for you, I’m not going to go out and buy a PS4 just to use this. Maybe they’ll get it to work with a Roku box some day. Plus everything else I said is true. I don’t hate it, but it’s still far behind cable, just cheaper.

        • Omen_20

          Maybe your cable is better or Rokus are just really under powered. My old Comcast box had to phone home for everything it did with the On Demand. Literally jumping down a page of listed shows would take 3-8 seconds, repeat five or six times. Then the whole dance again to pick the episode. Then there was the chance of it causing an error during load of a page or the show itself, forcing you to do the whole process over again. So many nights I sat down with food just for it to be cold by the time I got the episode going.

  • chenriii

    For what it’s worth, I have a 25/25 Verizon FIOS Internet connection, and I watch PS Vue both on two of my laptops and an Amazon Fire TV (NOT a Firestick!!!). Vue will run up to five devices (five streams) and each browser tab on a computer counts as one device: 2 browser tabs on Laptop 1 + 2 browser tabs on Laptop 2 + the Amazon Fire TV = 5 devices/5 streams.

    And I have not experienced any of the issues you have all mentioned, and I’ve had the service now since December. Even the one relatively complimentary user comments here mentioned that the DVR is not HD, to which I say HUH??!! I’ve been getting perfectly fine HD performance with my DVR, in fact I’ve seen no difference in video quality between the live TV and the DVR, so something’s not right there: it’s the same path and the same specs.

    • @#$/!

      How much does 25/25 Verizon FIOS Internet connection cost?

      • chenriii

        For me it’s $50 a month, but keep in mind that I bundle it with my phone, which is $30, for a total of $80 a month. If it’s a standalone, 25/25 is no longer available. The slowest is 50/50 which, by itself, costs $55 with a 1-year contract.

  • EJ95835

    One important aspect that is too often overlooked is customer support and engagement.

    I’m a Sling TV subscriber who signed up for their Cloud DVR support when it became available. It sort of worked for a few weeks, then completely went away on the day I was billed for the next month. I complained to Sling Customer Support within 3 days of the failure, and was offered a credit and Cloud DVR service discontinuance – not an offer to repair or restore the service. I waited one week to see if the service would resume. When it didn’t, I asked for a full month credit for the service; a measly $5. What I was given instead was a $3.33 credit. I complained again stating that I should receive full credit since the service has not worked at all during the entire billing period. Customer Service instead replied that I would get the $3.33 credit and that the case was being closed.

    Now you might be thinking, why is this guy quibbling. He at least got some of his money back. But I believe that the underlying tone of their messaging is set by the highest level of authority within their organization. Mainly, if you’re not satisfied with some aspect of our service, we will deny you altogether. Second, we will credit your account only if it pleases us, and only for the amount we deem appropriate. Finally, we’ve had enough with you, talk to the hand.

    It all starts at the top, and this is the type of interaction that gives companies bad reputations. Dish TV has long held one of the poorest track records among TV providers, and it has continued on to their Internet live-streaming division as well. I will not recommend this provider, and will be looking for another soon.

    And that’s the power of cord-cutting. I did not allow myself to be forced into a long-term contract or have to pay for customer premise equipment. I can take my business elsewhere if I’m not happy, and believe me, I will.

    • Bruce Wayne

      Or you can just switch to Vue which has the best DVR service of any streaming service and not give any more of you money to Dish 2.0.

      • Bruce Wayne

        Sucks for you.

        • EJ95835

          Not at all. Being in long-term, satisfying relationship is quite enjoyable. I hope that someday you will know what that’s like. In the meantime try looking up the meaning of the word “humility.”

          • Bruce Wayne

            Lmfao. Quite the insecurity there. I was talking about your issue with Sling not your relationship.

          • EJ95835

            I’ve read your other posts and the way you talk down to people. I don’t accept it.

          • Bruce Wayne

            Insecure and a stalker. Two punch combo.

      • Jim Barnes

        I just dropped Dish Network I had one hopper and 3 Joey’s and top 250 channels all for $133 per month. Now I have PS Vue for $64 which includes HBO and Showtime and I couldn’t be happier for half price and complete DVR service on five different devices.

      • Winters

        I currently have Sling and enjoy it for the most part. I do hate the lack of news choices it offers. Will more than like be switching to hulu at the end of the year.

        I do not rely on the streaming service only, but I bundle it with a mohu hd antenna for local channels, amazon prime, netflix, and a dvd player for more selection and a lower price than any cable/satellite service. Good luck with your search!

        P. S. My wife likes Hallmark too 😉

        • James Arndt

          Download the Kodi app to your device, and set up an account. From there you can download the Hallmark app., so your wife can watch the Hallmark Channel. There are also other apps, including ones which have live pro sports but, the best part about it, is it is all FREE.

          • Winters

            Thanks James!

      • James Arndt

        Just download the Kodi app, to your device, the Hallmark app is located there. Though nothing is live, everything that has been shown on the station, within the last few days, is recorded on the app. all she will have to do is click on it, to watch it.

      • Arthur L Diggs

        If you subscribe to ps vue’s most expensive bundle at 74.00 / month, you will have the channels.

      • James Arndt

        Just download the Kodi app, from the device you’re using. From there, download the Kodi app.. Once you have that done, set up your account, and you can download the Hallmark app., which will give your wife access to her beloved Hallmark Channel. You will also have access to other apps., including sports apps, with live games. The best part about it, is it is all FREE.

  • Bruce Wayne

    Too many options out there for them to.

  • @#$/!

    If you need cable provided internet to stream, are you really cutting the cord?

    What other internet service privider will give me enough bandwidth to stream well enough to watch tv? Att only goes up to 10mb. Spectrum gives me 60 but if I drop tv my internet service costs $90/mo. Adding streaming services brings me back up to wher my current bundle is.

    I would go OTA tomorrow if I could find a good multichannel DVR.

    • Keith C

      I have a Channel Master DVR+ for OTA and I’m very happy with it. The recording features could be a little more robust, but overall it’s been very good. It has two tuners. I bought a 2TB portable HD to record on and then you can copy the programs off somewhere else, if you want. The Rovi guide also comes with purchase and no monthly fee. I looked a Tablo and TiVo and the DVR+ works best for me.

      • @#$/!

        Thanks for the info, I am looking at reviews for Channel Master so its good to hear a happy customer.

        I still have time to figure out a solution that suits the whole family. Most of what gets recorded is available OTA but I would need at least 4 channel capability. Would probably add one streaming service that provides the most options that are not OTA.

        My one obstacle is finding internet service that is fast enough to stream but not provided by Spectrum. I like Spectrum but its too damn expensive. $90/mo for 60MB.

        Thanks again for the feedback.

        • Keith C

          It’s just the wife and I with a primary TV, so the DVR+ works for us. With multiple streaming users, the Tablo or the TiVo Bolt make more sense. Both are available with 4 tuners but I hate extra monthly fees. When the kids were at home, we only had 20Mb DSL service and they were happy for the most part. A 5G wireless router made things even better. I agree, for $90 a month, I’d be on the fence as well.

    • Bruce Wayne

      I don’t know how many streaming services you need to the point where it costs the same as cable but even at that, you’re not tied into a contract and you can cancel at any point.

      • @#$/!

        My cable bill is $145/mo with no contract. I can cut the cord at any time. But I am on a promotional rate until Oct. so they will try to raise my rates. I want to be able to cut and run if I have to.

        I was expecting my bill to go down to less than half that if I dropped to internet only. Man, was I wrong (and pissed) when they told me it would be $90. Was equally disappointed that ATT can’t provide 30+MB speeds in a residential area.

        It looks like any one of the streaming services will be $35 (or more with fees and taxes).
        I’m willing to deal with less TV. OTA is very good in my area. DVR investment will be arourn $400.

        I still have time to figure out a solution.

        Thanks for the reply

    • Rucknrun

      Some of it is about flexibility. I can watch PS Vue on any device and it has a DVR. I used to be restricted to one cable box on my basement tv. It also costs less.

      • @#$/!

        Thanks, Can PS Vue do more than one channel?

        • Rucknrun

          You can stream up to 5 devices at one time or if you have a ps4 you can stream 3 channels at once on the same screen. Not sure when or if they will push it out to other devices. I used that during March Madness a few times.

          • @#$/!

            Thanks for the info

    • chenriii

      For OTA, I use the Channel Master DVR+. I can record two items at the same time, no problem. An added perk is the fact that one can attach an external hard drive and the items you record can then be transferred to whatever storage device you like, provided you get a Linux adapter software (Ext2fsd is free).

  • Wishanigga Woods

    PS Vue is the best, tried Sling, it’s good but imo just not as good as Sling especially if you have a PS4

    • Bruce Wayne

      You mean not as good as Vue…

  • Ann Schofield

    I’ve had Vue for about six months, with Amazon Fire and occasionally there are issues but they seen to remedy quickly. I cut the cord specifically because I don’t watch much tv and mostly only a few channels and the number one reason was because I was fed up with their telephone (landline) bundles. I don’t want or need a landline and I couldn’t stand them trying to force it on me all the time. I still use their internet service which chaps me to no end. Hopefully I can ditch them soon.

  • Winters

    First, let me say I am a cordcutter and love it! However, I also know a thing or two about the tech industry…. The increased cost issue does not lie within one company vs another in my opinion, but more within the entire industry. Companies such as AT&T and Verizon act like they are the fiercest competitors publicly, when their policies, prices, and business practices basically mirror each other. The big companies will own streaming for years before the little guy (prepaid-like player) has gained entry into the market. It is for this reason that I think the author is wrong, with all due respect. However, great article.