The entertainment app game is getting serious, with new offerings abounding for Xbox and Playstation in 2015.
When the Xbox One and PS4 launched last year, they came with lofty promises of delivering more than just games in order to become the epicenter of your living room entertainment. Both launched with standards like Netflix and Hulu, but the realization of those initial promises has taken longer than expected, and plans to deliver more are always in the works. Here are the best console entertainment apps you can use now, plus a look down the road to see what we can expect to arrive in the next few weeks.
HBO is poised to be the first premium movie channel to split from cable and offer its own for-pay service, and the consoles are the perfect delivery method. Current subscribers to the channel (or anyone who knows their parents’ cable password) can fire up the app on their Xbox One right now, and PS4 owners will likely be able to do the same somewhere down the line...though we wouldn’t hold our breath for that to happen before the season premiere of Game of Thrones
The Xbox Media Player
It’s not a streaming service, but it is free. The new Xbox Media Player is Microsoft’s own, built-in system that has a range of codecs to let you play files off of a USB stick plugged into the Xbox itself. This was a standard feature of both the 360 and the PS3 that was initially omitted in the new generation of consoles (and still is on the PS4), much to consumers’ chagrin. Sure, it’s a big leg up for people who pirate movies, but neither Sony nor Microsoft wants to encourage that. It’s also a great way to play the files that you create or legally download, and we’re happy to see it return. (Did they really expect us to watch our high school basketball highlight reel on a puny computer screen?)
Sony knows it needs to up its game in the entertainment department, and they’re betting that providing owners with a Sony-branded, Cloud-based, month-to-month subscription model is the path to success. Playstation Vue has been in private beta for a few months now and is set to debut early in 2015 by streaming local broadcast content directly to the PS3 and PS4. PSVue will also allow users to create a “favorites” channel (a la Pandora radio stations) as well as save favorite episodes of shows in the cloud for almost a month. As more and more people show companies like TWC and Comcast out the door, PSVue hopes to scoop up a generation of cord-cutters where it matters most—in front of the couch.
Dish Network’s major gamble on a pared-down subscription service is going to be delivered via Xbox Live. SlingTV is planning to bring a ton of Live-TV channels streaming without a cable box or satellite dish for a flat rate of $20 per month with none of the contracts, garbage charges or hardware rentals you’d normally see on your cable bill. The service will roll out over the next few weeks and has a good focus on sports thanks to a content partnership with ESPN. Other than that, we might throw down for the service just to get Cartoon Network.