US Netflix Users Can View Offline – For a Price

Netflix hasn’t launched any new features out of the blue or changed its mind about offline viewing but third-party service PlayOn Cloud is giving Netflix subscribers as well as subscribers to many other OTT video streaming services the ability to download TV shows and movies for offline viewing.

The PlayOn Cloud service works like a cloud-based DVR by allowing users to set a show to record through the app so PlayOn Cloud creates a copy of the show and saves it on its servers for 30 days. So users have that time period to download the shows they recorded to their mobile device or computer to watch offline. Seemingly the service sounds like a great alternative for those that don’t want to risk going over their mobile data limit by streaming video on their mobile devices, but the problem is that PlayOn Cloud charges users 99 cents for every episode of a series and movie title they want to record and watch offline using the app.

Under Netflix’s terms of use subscribers only have access to content on a “streaming-only basis” but like traditional and network-based DVRs like TiVo and Comcast’s X1 the PlayOn Cloud service is completely legal under copyright law’s fair use provisions, according to MediaMall Technologies, which operates PlayOn. Recordings are limited to the personal use by individual users and no content-security mechanisms are circumvented by the service according to MediaMall.

The service could be a great way to circumvent Netflix’s stand against launching offline viewing in the US as it works to provide offline viewing and less bandwidth-intensive delivery methods in less developed markets where users do not have access to reliable Internet connections. The problem is that downloading just eight episodes of a series will cost users as much as a month’s subscription to Netflix costs. So where users would be saving on their data limits they would be spending on the cloud service for individual episodes.

There are instances where the service is an asset. For instance downloading one or two or even a few films from an SVoD service to view offline during a car trip or plane ride where users may not have Wi-Fi access of limited mobile broadband access and are unwilling to burn data on streaming. Spending a few dollars to watch a few movies offline and to keep kids occupied is worth it for the average consumer. However, PlayOn Cloud is charging a standard rate for all content downloads be it a 30-minute long sitcom episode, an hour-long drama series episode or a two-plus hour-long film. The value does not match up for every type of content so binge-viewers that watch seasons in a day probably won’t utilize the service. Downloading a season of shows for consumption over a period of a few weeks while out of the country for instance, when many are unable to use their cell services could also be a justifiable cost for a special occasion. But on average the cost of the feature is not something that many people, especially the younger, digital video service target-audiences that are already cutting the cord to cut costs, would use on a daily basis.

The PlayOn Cloud app launched last week and currently is able to record content on 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 they want to record from in the PlayOn Cloud app. Of course Amazon Prime Video and YouTube Red already offers subscribers options for offline viewing that don’t require paying extra, so users who know about the features won’t technically need to use PlayOn Cloud to view content offline. For now the PlayOn Cloud app is available for iOS devices and only in the US but the company has plans to launch an app for Android devices as well.

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