How PlayStation Already Did TV Integration Right

A few months ago I was a bit worried that there would be no decent PlayTV alternative releasing along with the next generation of game consoles. PlayTV’s a good service (or at least it was in its prime – we’ll get to that later) which allows users to watch, record and even pause or rewind live TV much like any other Freeview+ box available, without the need for another big box getting in the way, aided instead by the PS3’s power and hard drive.

I thought that one of the biggest problems I’d have later this year would be either having to keep my PS3 (yet another device) aside my new consoles or lose my TV recording capabilities entirely, having to part with more money to get a different box thing to connect to my television.

You think that I’d be happy, then, with yesterday’s Xbox One reveal – they appeared to relieve a worry of mine by integrating TV right into the core of the console, making it even easier to watch the shows I want with minimal fuss, featuring instant switching between games and other media, simple Kinect commands and even a full Xbox One powered guide.

That doesn’t ring true at all, though. They’ve taken the beauty of PlayTV – using the consoles power but not actually interfering with the games at hand – and smashed it with a big hammer, mixing the pieces back up with integral components of a game console in the process.

I don’t want to watch TV while I’m focusing on my games. Rather, I want it to be there, ready to launch in the background without having to change a cable or flip the channel over. I want it to be a standalone application, not something I reach by shouting commands at my console. I want games and TV, not games and TV.

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PlayTV just worked, without interfering with your game experience.

PlayTV got it right. The application sat completely separate from the games I was playing, its only visible presence coming from the handy recording notifications as it worked away in the background without interruption. It only ever took up my hard drive space, not my gaming time.

It all worked through the one HDMI cable and – for the most part – the one box. I found it a revelation at first. I had only ever experienced low resolution built-in TV before and I had never actively recorded shows for myself, being forced to put up with monotonous adverts, eating up my time as I had to find the right moment to watch TV live.

Now though, PlayTV is a poor shadow of itself, often dropping recordings and at times skipping them altogether; freezing as I enter the library and crashing when I try to delete items. I won’t be glad to be rid of a TV recorder but I definitely won’t miss the deteriorated, outdated shell of a piece of software that it has evolved into.

In fact, now I find myself only using it as background noise on a rainy afternoon, a device to visualise the news as it happens, an occasional (extremely occasional) tool for live sporting events or to watch the latest episode of Doctor Who as it airs.

I’ve watched more and more through Netflix recently; a similarly separate but much more solid application which also works through my PS3. Perhaps the next generation of TV apps could take a few hints from this and early PlayTV; we don’t need anything fancy, just a service that works, plays in HD where possible and sits away in the background, far from interrupting the game you’re playing.

So, Sony, all I ask of you is a more stable, more robust – yet functionally the exact same – PlayTV HD, not only integrated separately without fuss but announced that way too. When you take to the stage in a few weeks just focus on the games, please. After all, that’s why I bought my consoles in the first place, everything else is just a bonus.

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14 Comments

  1. Agreed, I loved PlayTV when I got it and, whilst it missed a few features (series link) and they didn’t necessarily work perfectly when they were added in, it enabled me to watch and record TV on my console without interfering with it. I like that.

    I don’t necessarily dislike the Xbox One’s TV stuff, but it doesn’t remove the big digital TV box from under my TV. It’s not All in One, it’s All in Two.

  2. It’s weird that PlayTV morphed into this cumbersome, oft-crashing beast that it is today. A friend of mine has had real problems recently with his PS3 crashing constantly. He freed up all the series links and the like on PlayTV and his PlayStation is in a much healthier way now. It’s also a shame that it was never able to provide HD thanks to the UK’s weird HD standards.
    Even in PlayTV’s prime, it was pretty slow to launch. These days I much prefer using the src button on my TV remote to switch between games and TV. It even has that “Picture in picture” feature for displaying multiple sources, something which I will NEVER need to use.

  3. I loved PlayTV too, but my PS3 has been crashing very often recently (on the XMB!) and with all the problems that I’d also noticed in PlayTV (freezing the system while it’s recording, corrupted records, crashing out of the app), I unplugged the USB from the front of my PS3. No crashes since.
    As a result of just how badly PlayTV is broken now, I’ve completely ruled out any chance of buying a Sony TV when I get a new one later this year. I’ve lost all faith in their ability to “do” TV, unfortunately. It would take something special to restore that for me.
    I really like the idea of TV on my next gen console(s), using those interface tools (controller, remote, voice, camera) and the power and storage space of my console is a good fit for me. But what was shown for Xbox One was completely irrelevant to me because we can’t get Comcast (et al.) here. So there’s still an awful lot to be shown and a lot of making up to do, for me to start paying closer attention!

    • I bought a Bravia for half off in January sales 3 years ago whilst visiting my family for Christmas. I still have it now, it has moved from there to my flat at the time, and has since moved to two other flats and it still works just as it did when we got it. They can definitely “do” TV, bear in mind that the people who made PlayTV are not the people who design Bravia TVs.

      That said, if I were to buy another TV right now, it’s a toss up between Bravia and Samsung at the moment.

  4. Sony where is version 2.03?

  5. Have you guys seen this ?
    http://community.eu.playstation.com/t5/PlayStation-3-Technical-Help/Play-TV-Auto-Off-crashing-PS3/m-p/18985502#M39301

    It’s been ongoing for months.
    Play TV used to be great, there’s no reason why it still shouldn’t be really.

  6. I have and still own PlayTV but its sat in the original box, but my aerial didn’t work at the time. Now with a larger TV and decent Freeview aerial it now just gathers dust. There goes that waste of money.

  7. Love my playtv, still use it but would agree that it is crashier than Bethesda stuff on a bad day ;) definitely still has its uses for me. Would love a hd version on the ps4 but not holding my breath about it.

  8. I had not heard of this at all. “I play games on my games console” was my first thought but I do watch things like LOVEFILM and BBC iPlayer but it’s all catchup stuff. If I did want to watch live TV, I’m technically skilled enough to press the source button to go to the HDMI input which the TV is on.

    On an unrelated note, I loved the idea of the fantasy team notifications during the TV as I have played fantasy premier league for almost 10 years now. I like the idea of a more immersive TV experience but I won’t seek it out when I make my decisions for next gen. For this reason, XBOX gets a point. Hence PS 4 – XBOX 1.

  9. Never used Play TV as the digital signal wasn’t available in my area but it sounds like it did a good job.
    I thinks MS’s idea of their ‘all in one box’ is incorrect, you still need your sky, cable etc. boxes to decode the signal which is just ‘passed through’ the X1 to the TV. An ‘all in one’ remote sounds a better description, and they’ve been around for ages.

  10. If they can offer HD, at least equal in number, to the channels on Freeview HD & will support it continuously & effectively, i’d be onboard. I’ve not got Sky, or F.view HD & my tv is crying out for hd tv . Don’t watch enough tv to justify a subscription & never bought F.view HD, in the hope Play tv would make the progression. I wasn’t aware of the lack of support & the issues it has, until I read this article.

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