Using PlayOn Desktop to Schedule Off Peak Video Downloads

What is PlayOn?

PlayOn Desktop is a program that allows you to schedule the download of movies and tv shows during Sky Muster ‘off peak’ data times. It is relatively cheap and very simple to use, you don’t have to be very tech savvy and its an excellent way to utilise your off-peak data that often goes unused.

What Do I Need?
You need an existing Netflix account or You Tube account to use PlayOn and a PC or laptop with Windows installed. Unfortunately PlayOn Desktop doesn’t work for Macs. 

BIRRR is currently researching the Play On Cloud app which works in a similar way on idevices, we will update when our research is done.

How Much Does it Cost?
PlayOn costs $4.99 USD per month or $30 USD annually or you can pay a one off lifetime membership charge of $69.95 USD. Prices do change regularly so check out current pricing on the Playon Website. Look into downloading a limited time trial, if you want to test the software without the commitment.

PlayOn charges are  an additional cost on top of your Netflix subscription. (Netflix AUS costs $9.99 per month for the basic package, which allows you to stream or download Netflix on 1 screen at a time in Standard Definition). Other plans are available, however it is not ideal to download from more than one device on Sky Muster. You may want to ‘trial’ Netflix for free for a limited time first.

How Does It Work? 

You can set your Play-On to record and download videos as .MP4 files during Sky Muster off-peak times.  PlayOn will start and end the recordings automatically. The recording works in a ‘streaming’ fashion. Meaning that if a movie is 3 hours long it will take 3 hours to record, and you can record up to 6 x 1 hour episodes of a TV series during your off-peak times. This means you can download up to 180 hours of movies and TV shows per month during your off peak time (subject to your data limits). This enables Netflix and You Tube to be more accessible to those on limited data connections.

PlayOn records during normal times too so if you find yourself at the end of your billing period with some leftover peak data and not enough time to use it up you can use PlayOn to record shows during peak times as well to use your data effectively.

How much data does it use?
You can easily adjust the quality of your recordings (similar to adjusting the streaming quality on your Netflix account), which will reduce the amount of data that is used per recording. However, I find anything less than Medium quality to be unwatchable and if you have a decent sized tv then you may want to stick to a High quality download setting.

Low Definition: reduced standard definition video quality, can use up to 300MB per hour.
Medium Definition: standard definition(SD) video quality, can use up to 700MB per hour.
High Definition: high definition(HD) video quality, can use up to 3GB per hour.

How to Watch?
Once you have downloaded your movies and TV shows there are multiple ways to watch them. You can use a streaming device (such as Chromecast) from your desktop, tablet or device. You can also put the files onto a USB or hard drive and plug that straight into your TV. If you have downloaded onto a laptop you can also use an HDMI to plug your computer directly into your TV.  Mirroring apps (try Googling one that is compatible with your TV and device) are also an easy way to watch.

Problems & Tech Support
PlayOn works really well the majority of the time. You can have issues where shows have not recorded properly or not at all (this can be from a minor Play-On glitch or a short Sky Muster outage or update). The program will flag the ones that failed to record overnight so you can add them to the queue to record next time.

PlayOn is a US based company so doesn’t offer phone based support in Australia, however there is a ‘tech support’ button in PlayOn settings which details problems and glitches and how to fix them.  PlayOn tech support can also be contacted via email.

How to Use?

  1. Create an account on the PlayOn website. (you will also need to have created a Netflix or YouTube account)
  2. Choose which payment option you want.
  3. Download the program to the computer you want to use (remember it is not compatible with Mac Computers)
  4. Follow the prompts as instructed.
  5. Once the PlayOn desktop program has downloaded go into settings and the ‘channels’ tab and enter your Netflix or YouTube logon and password details.
  6. In that same settings screen under the ‘General’ tab you can choose the quality of your download from HD to Low Quality as discussed above.
  7. Once this is set up you can go to the top right hand side of the screen and see an ‘off peak’ button. Click it to set up to record during off-peak times. You will need to enter your off-peak times in. PlayOn is very definite and only starts once the off-peak time has begun, it also won’t continue to record past the off-peak time you have set. e.g. If you have a 55 minute episode to record, but only 45 minutes of off-peak time remaining PlayOn will simply not record that episode (rather than record most of it or go over the specified time) and it will remain in the ‘Recording Queue’ until next time.
  8. Now the fun part. Click on the channels tab and choose the Netflix channel. Now you can choose whichever movies and tv shows you want to download. Once you have found what you want to record you will see the button on the far right of the show/episode description that says ‘record’. Click that and it will add it to your ‘Record Queue’ to be recorded during off-peak. You will have to click record for each episode of a series.
  9. Click on the ‘Record Queue’ button on the top right of the screen to see everything you have in your queue. You can change the record order etc from there if you want.
  10. Keep your computer turned on and connected to the internet overnight for the recordings to work (turn the volume down on the computer if you don’t want it annoying you through the night).
  11. You can see which recordings have downloaded successfully and which haven’t in the ‘new recordings’ and ‘failed recordings’ tabs on the left hand menu. Any ‘failed recordings’ you can just add to the ‘Record Queue’ again for next time and they will usually record successfully.  If you continue to get failed recordings or have other problems go to the ‘Help’ button at the bottom left of the screen.
  12. Sometimes when you open the PlayOn program you will get a screen that says ‘Server can’t be found’. Simply click the ‘Open Settings’ button and you will see a ‘Start/Stop Server’ button on the right of your settings. Click it and wait for the box to become green and say ‘Running’ and you are good to go. This happens often and is due to settings that don’t start the server automatically (to save data).

How to View
Refer to the How to Watch section above. You can open the PlayOn program to watch them, otherwise the recordings are also stored in a ‘Play-On’ folder in your Video files on your desktop. From that folder these can be transferred to a USB or hard-drive for viewing (and travel etc) if you want.

Check out Skymesh’s PlayOn hack article

Prepared for BIRRR by Sophie Parbury & Ben from SkyMesh.

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding your eligibility and best plans available. Page updated 25/10/18.