For a sure form of cord-cutter, PlayOn has all the time been a useful software.
With PlayOn’s desktop software program, you’ll be able to report TV reveals from streaming providers comparable to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and HBO Max, permitting you to observe them even after your subscription expires or after they transfer to a unique service. Basically, it’s a DVR for streaming providers that don’t have their very own built-in recording options.
However earlier this month, PlayOn developer MediaMall quietly made a serious change: The corporate is discontinuing its present desktop software program and changing it with a subscription-based service known as PlayOn Dwelling. Whereas PlayOn Desktop nonetheless works as of this writing, its recording capabilities will begin to break over time, and this system gained’t work in any respect in Home windows 11.
Whereas the change could be needed for MediaMall’s enterprise, it strands customers who paid for lifetime PlayOn licenses, and it additional complicates the query of how you can report reveals to observe by yourself phrases.
PlayOn DVR defined
Till earlier this month, PlayOn provided two variations of its DVR service:
PlayOn Desktop is a Home windows utility that hundreds movies in a hidden net browser, silently recording them to your laptop’s exhausting drive. It was accessible with a one-time buy—formally $70, however typically discounted—it and allowed for limitless recordings.
PlayOn Cloud is a web based model of the service that doesn’t require a Home windows PC. Customers queue up recordings from their cellphone or laptop, and PlayOn data them by its personal servers earlier than making them accessible to obtain. Every recording prices one “credit score” for as much as 720p decision—or three credit for 1080p—at a worth of round $0.15 per credit score.
In each circumstances, you find yourself with .MP4 video recordsdata that you would be able to deal with nonetheless you want. This turns out to be useful in a number of eventualities:
- Continued entry to a film or present after it leaves a streaming service.
- Stocking up on films or reveals, then watching them after your subscription lapses.
- Saving movies for offline viewing with none cut-off dates.
- Downloading movies prematurely, to keep away from buffering.
- Utilizing a Plex or Channels DVR server to centralize TV viewing in a single app.
Remember that stay TV streaming providers comparable to YouTube TV and Hulu + Dwell TV have their very own DVR providers in-built. And since different providers comparable to Netflix are are on-demand by nature, you may not want DVR options to go along with them.
Nonetheless, PlayOn does attraction to energy customers who need extra management over their TV expertise, and PlayOn Desktop was particularly helpful as a result of it didn’t incur any ongoing prices past its preliminary worth.
The demise of PlayOn Desktop
Whereas PlayOn Cloud isn’t going away, PlayOn Desktop obtained its ultimate software program replace on October 7 and is now not accessible to buy. As an alternative is a brand new Home windows program known as PlayOn Dwelling, which requires a $5 per 30 days or $40 per yr subscription however is functionally just like the outdated Desktop software program.
The explanation for the change is partly technical. Tracy Burman, MediaMall’s COO, mentioned by way of e-mail that Home windows 11 introduces a serious change in the way it integrates Microsoft’s Edge browser. That in flip compelled the corporate to revamp its whole capturing course of.
However the firm can also be utilizing the revamp to reckon with an unsustainable enterprise mannequin. PlayOn’s recording capabilities can break at any time when a streaming service makes adjustments to their web sites, so the software program requires fixed upkeep simply to stay purposeful. By final yr, MediaMall stopped including new options to its desktop model and was steering customers towards PlayOn Cloud; the problems with Home windows 11 seem to have been the ultimate straw in maintaining the desktop software program operational.
Burman alluded to this in an e-mail, saying that “it was not potential to develop and keep this new and improved model of PlayOn with out some continued funding from our clients.”
The upshot is that MediaMall has an incentive to spend money on its desktop software program once more. It simply added new content material sources—together with Discovery+ and Acorn—and its iOS and Android apps will quickly assist casting video from Home windows PCs to streaming gamers. (Simply don’t anticipate 1080p assist on the desktop both manner; Burman says that hardly any house PCs have the requisite processing energy given how PlayOn’s recording system works.)
None of this comes as a lot comfort to PlayOn clients who purchased “lifetime” licenses. Whereas they’ll now redeem three-month trials for PlayOn Dwelling—or extra, relying on after they purchased the software program—the outdated PlayOn desktop software program will finally turn into nugatory as its recording capabilities degrade. The information has not gone over nicely on PlayOn’s Reddit web page, the place an announcement submit now has a whole bunch of largely indignant feedback.
With out understanding the intricacies of PlayOn’s enterprise, I believe MediaMall may have achieved extra to placate these customers. It may provide them long-term reductions on PlayOn Dwelling, as an example, or an extended assist runway for PlayOn Desktop.
However the firm may also acknowledge that the options are restricted. Video obtain applications comparable to AnyStream and StreamFab are significantly pricier, with lifetime service at 260 Euros and $240 respectively. Additionally they work in a essentially totally different manner, downloading movies instantly from their supply web sites as an alternative of by recording stay video streams. I wonder if these providers, that are lower than two years outdated, would face up to media firm scrutiny the best way PlayOn has over its 13 years of existence.
In lieu of leaving PlayOn, customers who need to keep away from an ongoing subscription will merely should make the most effective of a foul state of affairs. Which means recording what they’ll earlier than PlayOn Desktop breaks, scooping up low cost PlayOn Cloud recording credit after they go on sale (which, primarily based on the promotional emails I get, is fairly typically), and dipping into PlayOn Dwelling for a month or two when there’s extra to report than standard.
And we must always all be slightly extra cautious of “lifetime” subscriptions from corporations whose prices are ongoing; ultimately, the invoice all the time comes due.
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