Sony today announced the addition of 200 local broadcast stations for the big four networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC — to its PlayStation Vue TV subscription service. The 200 channels are spread across select markets. With this latest batch, Sony now claims that Vue offers “more than 450” ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC stations throughout the US.
That’s not to say that all customers can access all four channels. Some Vue subscribers can only get one or two of them — and sometimes none at all in certain areas. A full list of the new local stations can be found here.
Seperately, today Sony added ESPN College Extra as an optional add-on service for Vue, providing sports fans “with the country’s best regional college games and matchups from top conferences, including football, basketball, and baseball throughout the college sports season.”
Sony is trying to bulk up Vue’s programming choices after having lost Viacom networks like Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. And more recently in May, Sinclair pulled the ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC affiliates that it controls off the service, leaving those local customers only with on-demand streaming for the four networks.
Today’s large add of 200 local stations nationwide pushes back against the idea that Vue’s content options are shrinking. Sony says the new local stations come “at no extra cost,” but that’s a little misleading. These days everyone pays the same price for PlayStation Vue. But in the service’s earlier days, customers who lived in areas where Vue didn’t yet offer live, local ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC stations could pay less money for a “slim” Vue subscription.
Vizio is partnering with Pluto TV to add a free video streaming service, called WatchFree, to “nearly all” of the company’s SmartCast televisions. WatchFree will get its own dedicated input, so it’ll have nearly the same prominence as your HDMI inputs and the main SmartCast screen. WatchFree is rolling out starting today.
When you switch over to it, you can browse between “more than 100 live and linear channels” covering TV shows, movies, news, sports, concerts, and “viral videos,” according to Vizio. (Did you see that one of the dog running around with the GoPro? Real good.)
“WatchFree offers an unrivaled, free viewing experience with endless entertainment options at the forefront,” the company said in its press release. But “endless” doesn’t necessarily translate to great. Take those expectations down a notch. Some of the channels advertised as part of WatchFree include:
Pluto TV Movies
The Surf Channel
Those NBC and Fox channels aren’t the actual cable networks, mind you; they’re different versions created for OTT services. “Coming soon” to WatchFree are two channels dedicated entirely to Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and Unsolved Mysteries, the creepy ‘90s series hosted by Robert Stack. Apparently there was also a rebooted version hosted by Dennis Farina, but I don’t acknowledge that and neither should you. One thing of note is that you can’t pause or rewind WatchFree; it’s live/linear, and that’s all.
While it’s to be expected for the price of free (with ads), WatchFree is several rungs below cable and subscription-based internet TV services in programming quality. It’s definitely a few steps better than the strange extra channels you get from a TV antenna, though. And if you’re a fan of one of those pop-up channels for MST3K or Kitchen Nightmares, it makes for easy marathon-viewing.
Vizio is by no means trying to position WatchFree as your new favorite streaming destination. More than anything else, it’s sort of a fallback for cord cutters who feel like venturing someplace new for a thing to watch — outside of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and other apps that can be casted to Vizio’s sets. Data collection on user viewing habits might be a concern to some given the company’s history, however.
If you have zero interest in streaming WatchFree, there’s a way to remove it from your TV’s inputs. Here’s how to do that:
1. Press Menu
2. Select “Input Settings”
3. Select “WatchFree”
4. Select “Hide From Input List”
5. Press the right arrow to change to “Hidden”
But maybe it’s worth doing some channel surfing before deciding. Below, I’ve included the entire, very long list of WatchFree channels that are available at launch. Here we go: