PlayOn From A Cord Cutters Perspective (A Review After A Year Of Use)

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by olandir, Feb 28, 2015.

  1. olandir

    olandir Well-Known Member

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    When I first was considering cutting the cord, I did a lot of research. I wanted to be able to get rid of the bloat of cable but still be able to watch certain shows. I was definitely of the mindset that I didn't want to give up ANYTHING.

    My research led me to PlayOn. PlayOn is a piece of software that you load on a computer. Using it, you can stream content from different streaming service websites to other devices (Roku, AppleTV, X-Box, PlayStation, phones, tablets, etc). We already had a Roku so by using the roku PlayOn app, we could browse through the different channels that PlayOn had available for the various websites. They have channels for NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, CW, Hulu (so you could get regular Hulu content), TBS, TNT, HGTV, USA, MTV, and so many more (including Amazon Prime and Netflix, but roku already had native apps for that). They also had a piece of software called PlayLater that allowed you to record content from any of these channels and save it on your local machine for future use.

    The software cost a 1 time fee of $70 for both PlayOn and PlayLater. I was already planning on buying a new computer anyway for some games I wanted to play so I thought it'd be a good investment.

    One thing that PlayOn would help us do was watch certain CBS shows that aren't available on Hulu but CBS makes available on their site. (This was before CBS All Access came out). It also allowed us to watch a lot of content from these other networks that are usually only available by viewing on computer only. PlayOn works by actually streaming and playing the video on the computer and then sending the feed to the computer. It's sort of like ChromeCast except you can control it all from your Roku or other connected device and it's hidden on the computer (you don't actually see it playing on your computer).

    Well, shortly after I cut the cord, the landscape of these websites started making a major change. A lot of these sites (TBS and TNT in particular) you could watch their content online without having to log in with a cable provider, now almost every cable network requires this except the stations you can typically get over the air.

    Of course, if you're a cord cutter, you don't have a cable subscriptions. All of those channels became useless. Plus, PlayOn has never successfully gotten those websites to work with the television provider logons anyway. They are extremely buggy.

    In addition to this the PlayOn interface is very generic and stark. It's difficult to navigate, difficult to search, and just unappealing all around. It's constantly updating, as well. It never feels very stable. But it still worked for getting CBS content, even after CBS came out with "All Access" so I kept it around if only for that.

    Well, much more recently I loaded Plex on the same computer. And Plex, is free. I never knew what it was capable of, always thought it was just for people with digital movie/tv libraries on a home network... and it is... but it does so much more. When I first started using it, I discovered how clean and amazing the interface was on Roku, and I used it to watch the library of PlayLater videos because it was so hard to sort them and really enjoy them watching through the PlayOn interface.

    However I have learned that Plex has channels as well. In the same way, you can watch content directly from the CBS, CW, ABC, NBC, etc websites. The interface is so much better. I was overjoyed. I really wish I'd found this first. The only cost was a $5 one time fee for the Roku App so I could watch the content on my connected device.

    After discovering this, I've basically packed PlayOn away. It's only real use is when I want to record something with PlayLater, but honestly it's a pain. You can't set it like a DVR, you have to go in and record manually everything you want. Also you can't always do that through the roku interface. The option is there, but not always (guess it depends on what happened in the most recent upgrade.) So this typically means once a week I go to the computer and open PlayLater at night and setup a bunch of downloads. It's not a big deal but again, it really wasn't worth the money.

    All and all, PlayOn wasn't really worth the investment. I never used it as often as I thought I would in the beginning and there are just other better more polished options out there for Cord cutters I think.
     
    RageAgainstBacon likes this.
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  3. digitalsatori

    digitalsatori Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the thorough review! For full disclosure, I want to say that I worked for PlayOn a few years ago - during the 'transition' time you mentioned when the content providers stopped streaming without a cable subscription. That hit hard. :(

    The frequent updates are important because whenever providers reorganizes their content (which is frequent, especially now), it has the potential to break where the videos are stored. PlayOn tried to do the silent updates, like an antivirus program would, but was basically read the riot act by customers and had to go back to manual updates.

    However, despite my professional bias, I am an huge fan of PlayOn - especially now that PlayMark has been released. PlayLater is great, but I'm not in 100% agreement with the encrypted encoding they use only because I want to keep my recorded content in the format I want - but combined with PlayMark, if I see a video anywhere on the internet that I want to keep, I can simply use PlayMark to send it to PlayLater, which will record the video and allow me to watch it later. It's incredibly helpful for those videos that don't tend to remain available for a lengthy period of time.

    But again, thank you for the review! I love reading these and hearing other's experiences! Plex is some amazing technology, as well, and something else to look in to for those who are more technically-inclined.
     
    RageAgainstBacon likes this.
  4. olandir

    olandir Well-Known Member

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    That's great that you have an inside perspective of PlayOn

    I definitely want to reiterate that my comments are specifically from a "cord cutter's" perspective. Obviously someone who doesn't have cable has no real need for channels which need a cable subscription and so all those channels became pretty useless.

    I do definitely understand that PlayOn had to keep updating in order to keep up with changes ot the web sites and that makes perfect sense. It was just that it never felt polished due to how all the content was displayed. That plus the updates made it always seem like it was in beta.

    Also even though they tried to overcome the cable subscription login issue, it never worked successfully so even if I had cable, I couldn't get the SyFi, TNT, TBS, USA, HGTV, etc to work. I understand how difficult that is to overcome. They really don't make those sites with streaming to TV in mind and of course they don't want to make it easy for software like PlayOn.

    I do like PlayMark, but the biggest problem for me was that the computer that I use to host Playon isn't really in an accessible place. I really would like to be able to send a PlayMark request from any device or computer that has the browser plugin and just be able to send it to the play on computer. I don't like to be restricted to just one.

    I think PlayOn has a lot of potential and uses, but I don't think it's necessarily the best tool for a cord cutter. At least not now.
     
  5. ptimkey

    ptimkey Well-Known Member

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    WOW those are some great posts you two. I]m really trying to get by with PlayLater because I only have a prepaid hotspot (no streaming). PlayOn seems to be of no value on my Ruku because I play through USB from a hard drive. Are you saying I can incorporate Flex with PlayLater?:
     
  6. olandir

    olandir Well-Known Member

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    If you only have a prepaid hotspot for your internet, then I'm guessing you don't have an internal wi-fi network in your home, so neither PlayOn nor Plex would work for you based on what you're doing (using a USB stick).

    They both require your Roku to have a network connection to your computer.
     
    ptimkey likes this.
  7. cwescrab

    cwescrab Member

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    I would love it but too many shows skip. I have a very fast router and internet.
     
  8. NatalieBojesen

    NatalieBojesen New Member

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    We just cut the cord this last month. We have a roku but want more. I'm debating between plex and playon. Plex just seems really complicated and I have no digital library. We aren't cordcutters because we're tech savvy but because we are saving money. My laptop is ooooold and I'm just not sure that something so complex will run on it. There's the really simple option of sling too but higher price tag. I'm totally new to all of this.
     
    LeoIrish likes this.
  9. LeoIrish

    LeoIrish Community Leader

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    I used to use PlayOn fairly regularly when I traveled, but generally not now. As olandir mentioned, it is not quite as useful as it used to be (before cable verification). However, my family does make use of it when getting ready for a long trip to put shows & movies on their tablets. Generally, we are recording from the streaming sites.

    We also do not really use Plex either - even though we used to. Ever since cutting most of cable, I have made it a point not to purchase or rent shows or movies individually via streaming or DVD. Instead, we wait for them to appear on one of the streaming sites (Amazon / Hulu / Netflix), or be available via the library.

    I will admit not going to the movie theater originally had more to do with saving a few bucks (we still go every now & then), but now it is also a matter of choice. We have a nice TV and stereo system at home, so no loss there. Further, the food is cheaper and the restrooms closer (and you can hit pause)!!!
     
  10. LeoIrish

    LeoIrish Community Leader

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    Funny - just got this email and I figured I had to post the body of it!

    At the end of this month a long list of movies will be leaving Netflix. If you have PlayLater, now may be a good time to build a queue of those titles so that you can watch them when you have time. If you don't yet have PlayLater, what are you waiting for. Get your copy today! You can do that at the link below.
    Get PlayLater Today
    Here are just some of the titles that will be gone from Netflix after this month.
    • The Rocky Film Series
    • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
    • Transformers: Age of Extinction
    • The Wolf of Wall Street
    • Robocop
    • Star Trek Into Darkness
    • Bad Grandpa
    • World War Z
    • Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
    • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
    Grab 'em while you can. Enjoy them when you can.
    Cheers,
    The PlayOn Team
     
  11. olandir

    olandir Well-Known Member

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    Plex is a lot easier to run and use than PlayOn. Play on is buggy software that can crap out on you for any reason whereas Plex is extremely polished. Also if you don't have a Roku or other streaming device, you can watch Plex on your laptop.

    I'm not sure what your options are, but if your laptop is old, I'd say get a Roku stick or a Roku3 if you can afford it and do a combination of Hulu/Netflix/Sling and possibly Prime.

    I'm not sure if Sling is still doing the free roku stick offer but if so, that would be a great deal (only if you like the channels they like)
     
  12. WanabeFree

    WanabeFree Active Member

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    I am in the process of becoming a cord cutter or shaver, I am in the experimental faze right now. My goal is to make a smooth transition into life without cable or satellite for me.
    I recently set up both Plex and Playon/Playlater. I also purchased a Tivo Roamino Basic DVR during there summer close out Lifetime special. I had hopes Tivo could become my universal box for everything. I soon found that while Tivo does have Netflix,Hulu & Pandora apps but in as well as some others via there Opera Store. It does not work as well for streaming as other devices like roku. It does have a built in App for Plex but I needed to learn how to use it effectively. Plex has some Apps that Tivo lacks and gives me access to my local stored media content on the Plex server. This is where Playon/PlayLater comes in. I have found that by using PlayLater I can record Web content and have it saved in the same folder system as Plex and then access it from my Tivo using Plex. This my seem complicated bu once its set up it just works. One unexpected benefit to using Playon/PlayLater is many of the channels that it uses to record on do not require a log in subscription so it negates needing things like a hulu subscription or CBS all access pass. Its not perfect but and not all some channels do require a cable log in as stated in an earlier post.
    My perspective may change as time passes but for now the combination of Plex & Playon/PlayLater has really added to my Tivo OTA DVR cord cutter experiment. I still think I will add a Roku to my project in the future just to cover all bases.
     
  13. Pascual

    Pascual Roku private channel seller

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    It is been 6 months since I cut the cable and all I needed was a couple of rokus since every tv needs a roku. All I have to do is add a subscription to a private channel that let you acces more than 300 channels streaming live and HD. It also has movies and series preloaded, so there is not need for extra subscriptions to roku or hulu since the movies and series get updated automatically so I always have the newest movies and latest episodes of series.

    I loved it so much that I became a reseller my self so if anyone is interested I can provide you a completely free trial and all you need is a roku connected to wifi. If you would like a free trial email me at rokuprivchannel1403@gmail.com
     
  14. olandir

    olandir Well-Known Member

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    PlayOn has made some SIGNIFICANT changes since I first wrote this review and their product has finally hit prime time. PlayOn is now subscription based which is both good and bad. They do still have a lifetime option and I was glad to see my previous lifetime purchase was honored when all the plans changed.

    PlayOn is FAR more stable now, the recording feature allows you to setup subscriptions and you can even set the time you want to record things.

    I still use Plex to view all of my recordings, the Roku interface has gotten a slight upgrade but it still has a ways to go. But all in all, I would retract my previous stance on PlayOn and plan to do a new review.
     
  15. Samaya

    Samaya New Member

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    I found this site by doing a search for PlayOn reviews. I've read everything above and am a little confused as to if PlayOn would be a viable solution for me.

    Admittedly, I have a some knowledge regarding computers and cell phones but I am sorely lacking in 'technology' knowledge. If anyone could answer this question, I'd be very grateful.

    I frequently travel in an RV. We do not have cable or satellite subscription. I do not have Roku, (admittedly, not even sure what one is).

    I have Amazon Prime and Netflix. However, because our ONLY internet access is through a Verizon hotspot, data get's used quickly, so steaming movies while online isn't a good option for us.

    I was hoping a service like PlayOn would allow me to download movies and TV shows to my computer and then play them back off-line at a later time. Is that something PlayOn will do?
     
  16. LeoIrish

    LeoIrish Community Leader

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    @Samaya : First of all, welcome to the group!

    That is exactly what PlayOn does very well. Yes, you can record via Amazon and Netflix once you input your account info. Do not worry too much if you see a 5-hour length to whatever you choose to record from these services. If PlayOn does not receive the embedded information for the exact length of time of the show / movie, it defaults to 5-hours for the description. Don’t worry – it will only record the amount of time which is appropriate.

    Also, you will able record from all of the network sites as well. All of them usually have the most recent episodes available before they go behind a paywall. This is how, along with Hulu, we record all of our broadcast network shows.

    Then, you are able to play whatever you have recorded via the PlayOn app. Do not worry about not having a Roku – you do not need one if your intention is to simply watch your recordings via a computer.

    Hopefully, this helps.
     
    Samaya likes this.
  17. Samaya

    Samaya New Member

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    It does. Thank you so much for the quick response.

    Can I use a USB to play from my lap-top to the TV (so that I don't need any other playback software or items)?
     
  18. LeoIrish

    LeoIrish Community Leader

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    Are you saying use a USB flash drive? If yes, then it would depend upon your TV. It does record in MP4 format, so it could be possible depending upon your TV.

    Or, you could also connect it via HDMI if both your laptop and TV have a HDMI port.
     
  19. Samaya

    Samaya New Member

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    Awesomeness. Thank you so much. I'm going to give the service a try. It sounds like what we've been searching for. Thanks again for the quick responses.
     
    LeoIrish likes this.
  20. LeoIrish

    LeoIrish Community Leader

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    My pleasure. Hopefully, it will all work out.
     
  21. WILL

    WILL New Member

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    I'm thinking of getting plex. Because I only have a Mac in my home and playon only works on pc's right now.
     

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