Those other streaming TV providers

Here at The Solid Signal Blog we tend to be pretty laser-focused on the top two live TV streaming providers, Sling and DIRECTV NOW. It’s not surprising, because it’s generally agreed that these are the two contenders you should consider in most cases. Right now the choice is pretty clear: if you want DVR functionality choose Sling. If you want a better channel selection and a more traditional-looking function, choose DIRECTV NOW. Those lines may get blurry in the coming months, but for now it’s easy to look at the two and decide.

What, though, of those other streaming TV providers? It’s easy not to talk about Hulu Live TV Channels, YouTube TV, and Playstation Vue, because they’re not the market leaders. Hulu just doesn’t seem to have the channel selection or price equation, and the user experience is pretty bad. However, YouTube TV and Playstation Vue are trying to become true contenders. They’re not there yet, but they are making an honest effort of it.

Is YouTube where YouAre?

The big factor slowing down YouTube TV right now is availability. The service got a real profile boost with a Super Bowl ad campaign, but it’s still not available nationally. It’s trying, though, with five new markets just brought online. This means about 100 of the top markets in the US can get the service. It actually does lead the pack in the number of simultaneous users.

One has to wonder why YouTube TV isn’t doing better. The channel selection is “OK,” and the price is as well. YouTube obviously has user awareness covered… pretty much everyone uses it. Google could give it away if they wanted to, as they give away other products. They probably don’t because of content provider contracts. They could still undercut others on price if they wanted to. So it’s hard to know why this service still isn’t making a dent in the national consciousness.

Vue to a kill

It’s easy to forget about Playstation Vue if you don’t have a Playstation. Truth is the service doesn’t require PS4 hardware anymore. Apparently it’s available on a lot of other platforms and they claim that 70% of viewing takes place on a non-Playstation device. The service has lagged behind on local channels, which they don’t see as important, and the market hasn’t embraced them. That may not be fair since they’re a worthy competitor, but I’m simply recounting facts.

Is it time for a shakeout?

With five live TV streaming services, it seems like the market will eventually choose one or two and the rest will shrivel up. I mean, you really have two choices of PC (three if you count Chromebooks which I’m not sure if you should.) You have two choices of cell phone operating system. There are still four major cell providers plus some smaller ones, but that’s a bit of an anomaly. For the most part tech seems to center itself around just a few popular choices.

I don’t think it’s time for that contraction yet, though. I do think there’s a lot more evolution that will happen with live streaming TV first. DIRECTV NOW and Sling are both working hard to provide a better and better experience, and with their parent companies (AT&T and DISH) both holding serious cards in the fight for 5G dominance, I expect great things there.

In the meantime, I leave you with this chart, which I credit to Tom’s Hardware, to let you see how the top services stack up as of today.

Hulu with Live TV
YouTube TV
DirecTV NOW
PlayStation Vue
Sling TV
Starting Price (per month)
$40 $40 $35 $40 $20
Channels (in entry-level package)
More than 50 More than 50 plus YouTube Red Originals More than 60 More than 45 29
DVR
Yes Yes In beta testing, coming to all Spring 2018. Limited $5 extra
On-Demand
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Device Support
Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Computers, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Roku, Xbox One, Xbox 360 Android, Apple TV, Chromecast & Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku and Xbox One and smart TVs from LG and Samsung. Apps for Sony Smart TVs coming soon. Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, PS3, PS4, Roku Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku, select Samsung Smart TVs
Simultaneous Streams
2 3 2 5 (1 PS4, 1 PS3, 3 total iOS, Android and web) 1 ($20 per month)
3 ($25 per month)
4 ($40 per month)