Let’s say you’re going on a plane, or on a long car trip, or to a house that doesn’t have WiFi. But you haven’t watched the latest episode of whatever series you’re hooked on, and you want to take it with you. Or there’s a movie you’ve been dying to see, and you want to watch it on vacation. How do you do that without being able to stream? Is there a way to record streaming video to your phone?
PlayOn Cloud is a new service that lets you record streaming video and stores it in the cloud, giving you 30 days to download it to your phone, tablet, or computer.
Each recording costs 99 cents, whether you’re recording a 22-minute sitcom episode or a three-hour movie.
The channels available right now on PlayOn Cloud are: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, HBO NOW, PBS, The CW, and YouTube. Note that the app does not give you access to streaming sites that you normally have to pay for. For example, if you’re not a Netflix subscriber, you won’t be able to access Netflix on PlayOn Cloud.Record your favorite streaming shows to your phone and watch offline! Click To Tweet
How To Record Streaming Video
PlayOn Cloud gave me a free trial of the service when it was in beta, and after it was released last week I purchased some credits myself so that I could test out the non-beta version. Here’s how it works.
Once you pick a channel you can search for specific shows or browse. You choose an episode and hit record. The recording is added to the queue.
Only one episode can record at a time. You can see the progress of your recording on the Queue screen. If you’d like your recordings to download to your device automatically, you can check a box to make that happen.
Once your recording has finished, you can find it on the recordings screen. You’ll be able to see how many days are left on your cloud storage.
Clicking on the recording gives you the option to play it (or download it first, if you haven’t already), or delete it from the cloud. Be careful with that “X” button, because you won’t be able to download the show to any other devices and would have to pay to record it again. I can’t think of a reason why you would want to delete something from the cloud, unless you recorded something embarrassing by mistake!
When the recording is finished you will also get an email with a download link. You can use that link to download an .mp4 file to a computer or other device.
Here are the benefits (and a couple of drawbacks) of the PlayOn Cloud service.
No Commitments or Monthly Fees
Each recording costs 99 cents. You can also buy recording credits in multiples of five on the PlayOn website and use them when you want. There are no monthly fees, you just buy what you need.
Take Your Recordings Anywhere
After you record streaming video you can download it to the PlayOn Cloud app, which took me between five and ten minutes depending on the length of the show.
If you download the file from the email link you’re sent for each recording, it’s a regular old .mp4 video file – it isn’t dependent on the PlayOn service for playback. You can download it to a computer, stick it on a flash drive, transfer it to an Android phone, use a video editing program to manipulate it, whatever you want. Well, whatever you want to do that’s legal – a little more on that later.
Cloud Storage Doesn’t Last Forever
You have 30 days to download your recording before it disappears from the cloud. You’ll get a reminder email when the time is almost up, and you can see how your recordings are aging on the Recordings screen.
Cast to a TV
If you currently have some way to cast your device or computer to your TV, you can use that to watch PlayOn Cloud recordings on your TV, as long as you’ve downloaded the .mp4 file.
If you record from one of the streaming channels that has commercials, playback on the app gives you the option of skipping commercials.
Recording Happens In Real Time
You can’t decide at the gate that you want to record and watch a movie on the plane. The recordings happen in real time. So if a show is an hour long, you need an hour to record it. You can check a box on the Queue screen that will automatically download the recording to your device as soon as the recording is ready, but you can’t start watching it until is has finished recording.
The good news is that you don’t need to keep the app open in order for the recording to happen. In fact, your don’t even need to keep your device on. The recording isn’t actually happening on your device, so you can turn it off if you want.
Is This Legal?
I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take anything I’m about to say as legal advice. I can just tell you how I feel about it.
Strictly speaking, the legality is a gray area, but it’s worth noting that while the PlayOn Cloud service is new, the company is not. PlayOn has had a desktop version (with its own app) for quite a while.
I have no ethical qualms about using PlayOn. I pay for subscriptions to several streaming services, plus a big cable package, and often find myself in a place where streaming isn’t available. I’m just time shifting, which the Supreme Court ruled is fair use.
But use common sense. You can’t sell the recordings, or broadcast them publicly. You really shouldn’t share them either, just like you shouldn’t share your login info for sites like Netflix. Each recording starts with a screen showing who recorded the show, so if your recording gets around, it will be obvious where it came from.
If I didn’t already have a lifetime subscription to PlayOn Plus (the desktop version), I would probably use the heck out of PlayOn Cloud. As it is, I’m sure I will still use PlayOn Cloud when I’m traveling and want to record something for later, or when I need to use my computer but also want to record something (the desktop version pretty much renders my computer useless while it’s recording, but that’s for another post).
The ability to watch a movie on my phone while flying or record something for my kids to watch on a road trip is definitely worth 99 cents to me. The app worked very well. Only once in all the time I used it did it freeze up. I closed it and re-opened it and it worked fine. I can’t wait for the Android version!