PlayLater is not new – it was announced back in September. But me getting a video demo of it in action while at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show is new, so it seems we’re at an impasse.
The concept of PlayLater is simple and smart, especially if you consume a lot of your TV and movies via online streaming sites such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and just about any other mainstream content provider (see the full list here). You choose a particular episode from, say, Hulu, and PlayLater records it as a video file to your computer that you can watch later. You can queue up multiple episodes from multiple providers, and they’ll get recorded one by one.
Is this legal? Apparently so. PlayLater isn’t pulling video files off of streaming sites; it’s literally making a recording of each one. It’s the same concept as your TiVo or cable DVR box at work here – complete with the ability to skip past any embedded commercials.
Aside from the ability to skip commercials, I see a few other advantages to this idea. For starters, the recorded videos can be played back offline, which is much faster than surfing to a particular site, finding the episode you want and waiting for it to buffer. Second, it corrals just about every video service you’d want to use in one place and lets you cherry pick content from each one instead of going to each individual site one by one. And finally, for services like Hulu that might only show the five most recent episodes of a particular show, this method lets you stockpile a bunch of them so you can watch them on your own time.
The service costs $5 per month, $40 per year or $80 for an unlimited-use license. The site is currently holding a sale, too – $20 per year or $50 for an unlimited license. The company also has a service called PlayOn, which lets you stream content from the same gaggle of popular websites directly to your smartphone and video game consoles.