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MediaMall, the company behind the popular PlayOn video streaming service, is today launching a new service, PlayLater, that lets you download streaming video from any website to view later. Yes, it’s effectively a DVR for online video.
PlayLater seems like the perfect solution for Web video addicts who travel with their computer and aren’t always on a reliable Internet connection. But as with PlayOn, the service is basically a hack, so there’s always a chance that particular channels of content could stop working without warning.
PlayLater includes access to online video from TV networks like CBS, TBS, and SyFy, and it also hooks into Hulu, Netflix and YouTube. The service is simple to use — so much so that it’s easier to navigate than most Web video sites. Simply choose a channel, locate a program and select a particular episode to download. PlayLater will download the episode in the background, and all you have to do afterwards is hit play. It appears to download video in in real-time, so don’t expect BitTorrent speeds. (If it downloaded video faster, you can be sure Web video sites would quickly ban the service.)
At the moment, PlayLater only works on Windows PCs. And don’t expect to easily share downloaded video, as PlayLater’s videos are only viewable on the computer they were downloaded on. You can also view downloaded videos on your iPhone and iPad by going through MediaMall’s PlayOn service, which streams the files from your computer. The service will cost $4.99 a month or $49.99 per year. Signing up for the beta will snag you a free month of service.
In my brief testing, PlayLater appears to be well designed and organized. I downloaded an episode of How I Met Your Mother (watch it, seriously) from CBS and it played without issue. Quality-wise, it looked about the same as it does online, with the occasional added blockiness.