What Is PlayOn?

Manage your streaming and digital media content with PlayOn

Official PlayOn Logo and Channel Table
Official PlayOn Logo and Channel Table. Images provided by PlayOn

PlayOn is a media server app for PCs (referred to as PlayOn Desktop).

PlayOn Desktop organizes media content so that compatible devices can find and play photos, music, and movies stored on your PC.

PlayOn also enables users to access and organize many online video streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, The CW, ESPN, HBOGo, and HBO Now, PlutoTV, YouTube, and a lot more.

In addition to viewing on your PC, content can be streamed to a compatible playback device that has a PlayOn companion app installed, such as a Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Smart TV, Network Blu-ray Disc player, or network-connected Game Console.

This means is if your smart TV or media streamer doesn't provide access to a specific service, if PlayOn has access to it via its pre-installed selection or more via the PlayOn browser, you can watch it on your device.

PlayOn Desktop Is a DLNA Media Server

PlayOn Desktop extends the capabilities of most DLNA-compliant media streamers, and other compatible devices (some Smart TVs, Blu-ray Disc players, and video game consoles).

PlayOn Desktop App — Compatible Devices
PlayOn Desktop App — Compatible Devices. Screenshot

If installed on a network-connected PC, PlayOn is listed in your player's menu. When clicking on the PlayOn App from your device, the online streaming services will show up on the PlayOn Channel Table, signified by that channel's official logo. Click on any of the Logos to watch or listen.

Playon Channel Menu

How PlayOn Is Able To Place-Shift Programming

Since Media streamer manufacturers must make deals with online streaming services in order to include them, sometimes the service you want is not available on your device. However, with PlayOn, you can stream other services to your device that may not be already included, by "place shifting".

This is possible because PlayOn works like a media server, but at its core, it is a web browser. When the PlayOn App streams from a streaming video website, the website sees it as just another computer's web browser. The streaming video from the website can be sent from your PC to other devices.

PlayOn Desktop Versions

There are two versions of PlayOn Desktop.

  • The free version allows you to play and stream content from several streaming services as well as your personal content on your desktop PC. You can also stream your personal content to other compatible devices.
  • The upgraded version allows you to not only play and stream online and personal content on your PC, but you will be able to record and stream online content to another device.

PlayOn Desktop is free, but the Upgrade requires an extra fee (more on that below).

Although the PlayOn App can be downloaded for free, there may be added subscription or pay-per-view fees for some channels, such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, and others.

The PlayOn Desktop Upgrade

The PlayOn Desktop upgrade enables you to record and save videos from any accessible channels. Once recorded, the saved videos can be streamed to media servers and other devices compatible with the PlayOn App.

The Desktop Upgrade works like a DVR for online content. Since it is recording online streaming content PlayOn refers to this feature as an SVR (Streaming Video Recorder).

  • You can click on any of the streaming media channels available on the PlayOn Channel Page, and choose a video to stream.
  • PlayOn will record the video to your computer's hard drive to be viewed or streamed to another device at a later date.
  • PlayOn records the selected video as it streams to your computer. The recording happens in real time. An hour TV show will take the full hour to record.

You can set-up Play-On Desktop to record single programs or an entire TV series. According to PlayOn, you can record anything that is available via its app, from Netflix to HBOGo.

If you are watching a video with ads, they will be recorded as well. However, the PlayOn Desktop upgrade enables you to skip the Ads during playback.

Recording live sporting events may have some restrictions, such as companion cable service subscription authentication.

For additional steps that may be required to record content from specific channels, refer to PlayOn's Recording How-To Guides.

Why Record Online Streaming Media?

Why would you record online video when it is readily available whenever you want to watch it? Although it may seem that media can be streamed from online on-demand whenever you want it, there are times when it can be preferable to have a video saved to your hard drive instead of streaming from online.

There are advantages to recording online videos and saving them to your computer or device:

  • Movies and TV shows may only be available on a specific streaming service for a limited time. Only a certain number of episodes of a TV show may be available. You may want to record a TV show or movie while it is available, then watch it later.
  • Subway riders, business travelers, and vacationers can save videos to watch during their commute or travels when there is limited or no internet access. 
  • Internet access may be slow and inadequate to stream video when you are away from home on vacation, business or visiting friends. You can take the TV shows and movies with you to watch at your leisure.
  • Broadband internet speeds may slow during peak hours, so you may not want to slow down your home network when others are streaming video, playing online games or working in your home. You can set PlayOn to record in off-peak hours when internet usage is less.

The PlayOn Desktop Upgrade costs $7.99 (month), $29.99 (year), $69.99 (lifetime).

PlayOn reserves the right to change its pricing structure at any time for promotional or other purposes.

Getting Started With PlayOn Desktop

To get started with PlayOn, perform the following steps:

  1. Download and install PlayOn on a Windows PC.

  2. Launch PlayOn.

    Playon Featured Screen
  3. Configure Channel Settings. Enter username and password information if required and enable or disable access.

    Playon Channel Settings
  4. To stream personal video, photo and music files go to Media Library.

    Playon Media Library Screen
  5. To connect to PlayOn from your phone or tablet, enable Mobile Access.

    Playon Mobile Access

PlayOn Cloud

Another service that PlayOn offers is PlayOn Cloud. This service allows Android and iPhone users to record streaming content and save it to the Cloud.

Once saved, the recordings can be viewed on an Android or iPhone/iPad. PlayOn Cloud recordings are automatically stored in the cloud for 7 days. During that time, you can download your recordings to your computer or device so you can access them after the 7-day period.

The files are recorded in the MP4 format, so that they are easily playable anywhere, even offline. It costs $0.25 cents for each recording you make. You can also purchase Recording Credits ($.25 cents per credit).

However, if you record a lot of streaming content, PlayOn also offers monthly recording and storage plans ranging from $2.99 to $19.99 per month.

In addition to storage and recording, PlayOn Cloud allows AdSkipping, as well as Auto-Downloading via WiFi. You can download the recordings to as many compatible devices as you want (as long as they are yours).

The number of recordings you can download and save is dictated by your available storage space.

PlayOn Cloud App — Use Example
PlayOn Cloud App — Use Example. PlayOn

The Bottom Line

PlayOn is an option that can add extra flexibility to your internet streaming experience, such as being able to record streaming content. However, with the exception of PlayOn Cloud, you need to have a PC and Home Network in the mix.

Also, content access through the PlayOn app is limited when compared to what is available on some media streaming devices, such as Roku, Google Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV, and content access through PlayOn is limited to 720p resolution. For those that desire 1080p or 4K streaming capability, PlayOn may not be your solution.

On the other hand, if you take advantage of the PlayOn Desktop Upgrade and/or PlayOn Cloud options, you do gain a lot of flexibility in terms of being able to record, and then access your favorite streaming content whenever, or wherever, you want, on compatible devices.

PlayOn Desktop vs Cloud
PlayOn Desktop vs Cloud. Screenshot

PlayOn Desktop and PlayOn Cloud features and services may change over time. For the most current information, check out their official homepage and complete FAQs.