Netflix customers have been asking for a way to watch the streamer’s content in offline mode for years.
Now a third-party service, PlayOn Cloud, is letting subscribers of Netflix — as well as HBO Now, Hulu and others — download TV shows and movies to watch them offline on an iPhone, iPad, PC or Mac.
The catch: Users of PlayOn Cloud must pay 99 cents for each episode or movie title they want to watch offline. In other words, downloading, say, the eight episodes of “Stranger Things” season 1 for offline viewing via PlayOn Cloud will cost nearly as much as the standard monthly price of Netflix’s streaming service. In short: not really a great deal.
Netflix execs have floated the idea of providing built-in offline viewing. But at first, the company is targeting the feature for countries with poor broadband connectivity, chief content officer Ted Sarandos said last week in a CNBC interview.
It’s worth noting that Amazon Prime Video has offered offline viewing to members, on both iOS and Android apps, for more than a year. YouTube Red subscribers also have access to videos in offline mode.
The PlayOn Cloud iOS app, launched this week, is currently available only in the U.S. The service initially is able to record content from 12 services: Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Yahoo View, HBO Now, YouTube, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, PBS and the CW. Users must enter their login credentials for each service in the app. The company says it’s working on an Android version of the app as well.
When a user sets a show to record, the PlayOn service creates a copy and keeps it on its servers for 30 days, functioning as a cloud-based DVR. Customers can download the recording to their mobile device or computer as an MPEG-4 file to watch later when they are disconnected from the internet. The app also includes ad-skipping feature to automatically bypass commercials.
As a sign-up promo, PlayOn is offering five free recording credits to users who download the app and create a valid account by Sunday, Nov. 13, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
New York-based MediaMall also offers a service called PlayOn Plus, which uses a Windows PC to store local copies of online video from about 100 services like Netflix, HBO Now and Hulu, and play them back on a range of connected devices. PlayOn Plus is available for $30 per year or a one-time fee of $69.99.