Looking to bridge the offline viewing gap for some video-streaming services, MediaMall Technologies recently introduced PlayOn Cloud, an offering that allows users to record and download movies and shows from Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, HBO Now and other subscription services.
Though MediaMall insists that its product is perfectly legal, the policies of some of those OTT providers indicate that consumers who use Play- On Cloud might be violating their terms of service.
MediaMall’s early claim to fame was the original PlayOn product, which lets users distribute Internet-delivered content from PCs to a wide range of devices on the home network, including Roku players, Chromecast adapters, Amazon Fire TV boxes and game consoles.
Seizing on a new opportunity, Play- On Cloud branches into recording and downloading, giving consumers a way to watch shows from Netflix without requiring an Internet connection — something that could resonate with commuters and consumers worried about exceeding their mobile data plans.
According to the company, PlayOn Cloud can record shows and movies from supported apps in the cloud and keep that content there for 30 days. It also includes an ad-skipping feature. At launch, the PlayOn Cloud app for iOS (an Android version is in the works) enables recording from the aforementioned OTT services, plus Yahoo View, YouTube, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, PBS and The CW.
The PlayOn Cloud app is free, but users must purchase recording credits for 99 cents each. One credit allows a user to record a full TV show or movie.
Downloading rights are far from uniform when it comes to subscription OTT services, though PlayOn’s angle seems to validate that there’s a strong consumer desire for them.
Amazon allows consumers to download some shows, as does Starz for its new direct-to-consumer app. But other content providers, such as Netflix, HBO Now and Hulu, currently do not support that option.
Netflix is considering a download option in countries that provide less-than-reliable Internet connections for streaming, Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, said in a recent interview with CNBC.
Some OTT services have been reluctant to support downloading because of the additional digital-rights costs, but also to protect their streaming business. It’s plausible that, for instance, a Netflix user could download a massive portion of the service’s library and then cancel their subscription.
MediaMall insists its PlayOn Cloud service is legal, protected by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law, citing the 1984 Sony Betamax case, which paved the way for personal home recordings on VHS and Betamax machines and, later, local DVRs. It also cited Cablevision Systems’ 2008 court victory for its “remote-storage” DVR, which allows customers to make individual recordings stored on the network for playback on set-tops.
It also pointed to a TiVo app that lets users access DVR recordings, as well as products such as the Tablo over-the-air DVR.
“Further, the PlayOn Cloud app is identically situated to any other app that allows users to remotely trigger, download, and play back personal DVR recordings,” MediaMall claimed.
Still, PlayOn Cloud could run up against the terms of service for some OTT s. Netflix’s TO S, for example, states that users agree not to “archive, download (other than through caching necessary for personal use) … content and information contained on or obtained from or through the Netflix service without express written permission from Netflix and its licensors.”
Hulu’s TO S prohibits subscribers from using any device or software to “copy, download, stream capture, reproduce, duplicate, archive [and] distribute” its content without written permission.
The HBO Now terms of service don’t cite direct downloading, but do stipulate that the customer’s “device must be connected to the Internet” in order to use HBO Now.
Policing and enforcing those policies could represent a big challenge for those providers, and it’s questionable whether PlayOn Cloud will be adopted widely enough for it to present a material threat to streaming services.
Netflix declined to comment on PlayOn Cloud. Hulu and HBO had yet to comment by deadline.
“PlayOn has not received any feedback from SVOD services regarding PlayOn Cloud,” MediaMall said in a statement.