PlayLater Works Like a DVR
PlayLater works like a DVR for online content. Click on a streaming media channel--Hulu, ESPN, Amazon Video On Demand, or the Oprah Winfrey Network--and choose a video to stream. PlayLater will record the video to your computer's hard drive to be watched or streamed to another device at a later date. PlayLater records the selected video in real time as it streams to your computer. Like a DVR, the recording happens in real time. An hour TV show will take the full 45 minutes to record. If you are watching the video with ads on Hulu, it will record the ads as well.
Initially the PlayLater videos will only play back on the computer where it is recorded. Jeff Lawrence, CEO and Co-Founder of PlayOn explained that within 6 months the PlayLater videos will be accessible by the PlayOn server and will play on DLNA compatible network media players, media streamers, networked TVs as well as Google TV and the Roku box --in other words, PlayLater videos will be able to play on your TV.
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 transiently available for a period of time. Movies are often licensed for streaming for a narrow time window. Netflix movies may disappear from the Instant Watch library. This is particularly true for Hulu's free streaming website. Only a certain number of the most recent TV Shows episodes are available--typically, Hulu makes the past 5 episodes available. You may want to record a TV show or movie while it is available, then watch the video when it is more convenient.
- Subway riders and business travelers can save videos to watch during their commute 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, or 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 PlayLater to record in off-peak hours so you don't interfere with other streaming bandwidth needs.
Is PlayLater Legal?
Streaming media is a hot button for copyright protection issues. However, the issue of recording video for your personal use (time shifting or watching when you want) was ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1984 that ended with the Betama decision. The Betamax decision states that "the making of individual copies of complete television shows for the purposes of time-sifting does not constitute copyright infringement but is fair use." Without the Betamax decision, VCRs and DVRs would have been illegal.
PlayLater is sensitive to artists' rights and has made it difficult to share recorded movies and TV shows, thus nipping piracy in the bud. PlayLater records in a special Windows Media format that has been encoded. To play the recording on other devices will require a license to allow for decoding of the video. This not only protects the video from mass distribution and piracy, it insures that users will pay $49.99 for a full license for the PlayLater software.
What PlayLater Will Cost and How it Will Be Launched
While the initial PlayLater beta will be free, the final release of the software will cost about $49.99. In order to play the videos on another device, you will also need PlayOn software at $39.99. Jeff Lawrence said that they expect to have a bundled price available when the product is launched.