Frequently Asked Questions
Take a look here for answers to the most common questions concerning PlayOn.
- What is PlayOn?
PlayOn is software that you install on your Windows PC. It works with a gaming console like Wii, WiiU, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or another supported device like Roku, iPhone, iPad, Android phone, or Android tablet to access video feeds from various online content providers. You will be able to watch videos from content providers like Hulu, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Comedy Central, CBS, YouTube, MLB.tv, your local media files, and so much more, directly on your television or mobile device, instead of your PC screen. You can see a full listing of PlayOn internet channels here.
- How does PlayOn work?
PlayOn runs in the background on your networked PC. It uses standards called UPnP, DLNA, and HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) to communicate with networked gaming consoles, set-top-boxes, TVs, and mobile devices working both as an Internet browser to access online media, and as a UPnP and HLS media server to serve videos to UPnP and HLS compliant devices. You can read more here.
- Do you offer support for PlayOn?
- What media devices work with PlayOn?
For a list of supported devices, please see the supported devices page. If you try PlayOn with another DLNA/UPnP media device not listed on that page, please take part in the Media Devices forum and share your feedback with us as well as other users. PlayOn also works on the Nintendo Wii! We use the built-in embedded browser in the Wii (the Internet Channel).
Purchasing & Licensing
- How can I buy PlayOn?
Please visit our buy page for our current pricing.
- Can I get a refund if it doesn't work?
PlayOn offers a 30-day money back guarantee. We can provide a full refund for any refund requests that are made within 30 days from purchase. You must email us at email@example.com to make a refund request. For refund requests that are made more than 30 days past the date of purchase, we cannot provide full refunds nor can we pro-rate refunds based on the unused portion of your PlayOn subscription. If you opted for a subscription plan and cancel it, your cancellation will take effect on the first day of your next billing cycle and you will not be billed further.
- What guarantees do you offer?
- PlayOn software enables browsing of content provider websites that may not have a direct affiliation with MediaMall Technologies. Although we work tirelessly to ensure continued PlayOn compatibility with all current and future supported services, MediaMall cannot guarantee such support in any way. We can however guarantee that we will do our absolute best to reinstate service as quickly as possible in the event of any service outage or technical failure within PlayOn.
- What is the difference between PlayOn Premium, MyMedia, PlayOn Lite and PlayOn Basic?
PlayOn Premium is our current product offering. By buying a license, you will continually get access to the latest and greatest features and content in the PlayOn Premium product line. You can buy a PlayOn Premium license on our purchase page. As long as your license is active, you will always get free updates to the PlayOn Premium product.
MyMedia is a free product that we created to enable you to watch your own local media files from your PC on your TV or mobile device. Visit the MyMedia page for more information.
PlayOn Lite is no longer a supported product.
PlayOn Basic was available before PlayOn Premium made its debut on May 20, 2010. PlayOn Basic has no recurring subscription fees, but has a locked feature set and a static list of content providers (Hulu, Netflix, CBS, ESPN, MLB, CNN, Amazon VOD, YouTube, Pandora, MyMedia). We still offer free support to Basic users, but you won't get the latest and greatest features and channels unless you upgrade to the PlayOn Premium package. If you upgrade to PlayOn Premium, but change your mind later, you can still roll back to your original PlayOn Basic license. Simply visit the buy page to purchase PlayOn Premium.
- What is included with my PlayOn Premium license?
A PlayOn Premium license enables you to use the PlayOn software. You can use PlayOn to access all of the free videos available online. There is no need to pay for any other subscription services.
If you do subscribe to a service like Netflix or MLB.tv, you will have access to the larger collection of videos that they provide when you enter your credentials for those services in PlayOn settings. A PlayOn license does not grant you free access to any paid video subscription services such as Netflix. You must subscribe to those services separately by visiting the service providers' website.
- If I buy the Roku offer, is my license different?
PlayOn Features & Content
- What content channels does PlayOn offer?
Currently, PlayOn channels brings you content from Hulu, Netflix, CBS, Comedy Central, TV.com, SpikeTV, ESPN.com, ESPN3, MLB, NHL, CNN, PBS, Amazon VOD, YouTube, MTV, Vevo, Pandora, and much more -- not to mention all the third-party plugin channels, which allow you to access dozens of other content sites. Take a look at the ever growing list of content of providers here.
- What are PlayOn Plugin channels?
Plugin channels for PlayOn allow third-party developers to create custom feeds to pretty much any media content available online. We have provided a simple API so that developers who are familiar with the .NET framework can easily create and distribute their own plugin channels. You can find a wide variety of plugin channels in our Plugin Channels Store.
- Can I watch both free regular Hulu and Hulu Plus with PlayOn?
Yes, PlayOn lets you stream both regular Hulu.com or Hulu Plus videos on your TV or mobile device. You do have to have an active Hulu Plus subscription to access Hulu Plus content, however, you can catch most of the shows available on Hulu Plus on regular Hulu without paying for the extra subscription cost. Did you also know that if you only had Hulu Plus without PlayOn, you cannot access any of the videos that are available on regular Hulu on your TV or mobile device? PlayOn gives you the option to access the full suite of videos available on both Hulu.com and Hulu Plus on whichever device screen you prefer to watch it on.
- Can I watch live TV?
You can view a variety of live news broadcasts through PlayOn's Live news channel (see our channel listings for a complete list of news networks). You can also catch live sport events through ESPN3* and through paid services like MLB.tv and others. But most websites do not offer live video streams for TV shows. None of the networks offer any way for you to view cable TV or over the air broadcasts online. However, with PlayOn, you will be able to stream all videos the networks put online on their websites, as soon as they're available for as long as they're available. You can even record them with our online video DVR, PlayLater.
*Requires that your ISP supports ESPN3.
- Can I view my local CBS, NBC, ABC, etc. affiliates with PlayOn?
No, you cannot view these broadcasts online. You will need a digital antenna or a cable TV subscription to pick up these channels. We recommend the Antennas Direct ClearStream Micron Indoor Long-Range Digital TV Antenna
- Is content available in HD?
PlayOn streams 480p video. Most of the online content supported in PlayOn is only available in 720x404 (SDTV 16:9 widescreen) or 640x480 (SDTV 4:3). However, more websites are now beginning to offer higher quality HD videos, with vertical resolutions as high as 720p. We plan on supporting these sites with HD content sometime in the near future.
- Is there a way I can skip ads?
No, there is not currently, nor will there be, a way to skip ads from premium content providers through PlayOn. The ads are what enable these companies to offer their content over the Internet so that services like PlayOn can bring them to any device you wish to view them on, whenever you want to view them.
- Why should I buy PlayOn when I get Netflix and Hulu Plus on my Xbox 360, PS3, Roku, Wii, or mobile device already?
The November 2008 Netflix-Xbox 360 integration requires a Live Gold subscription membership, which costs more over one year than a single PlayOn license. PlayOn offers the ability to watch Hulu (including "web only content") AND Hulu Plus content (if you are a subscriber to Hulu Plus) on your gaming console or mobile device. Not a Hulu Plus subscriber? No problem – PlayOn lets you watch all of the web-only Hulu content on your gaming console and mobile device without subscribing to Hulu Plus! Also, PlayOn offers more content than just Netflix and Hulu Plus – we have almost 60 channels from ESPN to YouTube, Comedy Central, CBS and more. We add more and more content each quarter as free upgrades to existing PlayOn Premium users. Additionally, we are constantly expanding our library of free plugin channels created by 3rd-party developers. Plus, PlayOn makes it easy for you to watch Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and more on your mobile device.
- Do you have partnerships with all the content providers?
Some, but far from all. We don't require partnerships, but we do like to have them! PlayOn is fundamentally just a web browser, exactly like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome or Safari. And in the same way that Microsoft, Mozilla, Google and Apple don't necessarily have relationships with the websites they support through their browsers, neither does PlayOn. In fact, PlayOn is actually a customized version of the Internet Explorer engine.
- Does PlayOn work outside the US?
It depends on the content provider. Some content providers, such as YouTube, allow viewers from outside the US to watch their videos. However, other sites, such as Hulu and CBS, geographically restrict their viewers to within the United States. If you can play videos in your web browser on your PC, they should be available through PlayOn in your country.
- Can I add my own internet channel feeds?
The best way to add your own feeds to PlayOn is to take a look at the PlayOn Plugin API, and see the various Plugin options for adding custom content. You can either develop your own plugin channel for the content you're interested in, or see if the growing development community has already created just what you're looking for in our Plugin Channel Store.
- Can I see my local media files like pictures and videos from my PC through PlayOn?
Yes! And it's 100% free as part of MyMedia. Just choose the directories on your PC or network drive that you want to share. Any media files like pictures, movies, or home videos in those directories will then show up. You can also find the MyMedia channel within PlayOn, just enable MyMedia (local media file sharing) from PlayOn Settings.
MyMedia will serve your media files to your TV or mobile device either by transcoding them (converting to the right file format) on the fly as necessary, or directly without transcoding, if your media player can support the file type. It will also display as much information as available about your media files making it easier for you to browse through your files. Subtitles for videos are supported when available, whether they are embedded within your video or when there is an external subtitle (.srt) file available. You can even import your iTunes playlists for enjoying with MyMedia.
- What does "real-time transcoding" mean?
Transcoding just means converting the format of some media to another format. PlayOn is a transcoding media server. We take media from online websites, which is often in formats like Windows Media, Flash Video, or H.264, and convert it to a format that your networked device can understand, often MPEG, as this is a reliable standard. Some devices have more advanced codecs -- this just means that they can play the fancier Flash and H.264 videos. Our server will know in these cases if it can just pass the video along as is, without transcoding it to another format. When we say "real-time transcoding", we just mean that the PC is downloading the video from a site like Hulu, and converting it on-the-fly to another format, and then sending it to your device. It sounds simple, but it's really not.
- Can I skip transcoding and serve the online streams directly to my device?
A very common question! And according to many device manufacturers, their consoles can natively handle quite a few different media file formats and codecs. It would make sense if PlayOn could just shuttle online video streams, such as FLV or H.264, directly to the device, instead of converting it on the fly, right? Unfortunately, the theory is better than reality, mainly for two reasons. First, although the devices claim to handle these codecs, the actual support is often unreliable, especially when the media is streamed from a web server vs. coming from a flat file on disk. Second, and much more importantly, all of the core online content providers available in PlayOn have quirks associated with them that actually require transcoding. For example, it's impossible for a DLNA client to incorporate separate advertisements interspersed within a main video. Also, many of the ads are in different media formats than the main show. DLNA clients require one single, contiguous video stream, and are unable to switch gears in the middle to accommodate a new codec. Additionally, many source videos include multiple layer overlays (such as logos or watermarks, advertisements, and timers), which can be correctly handled by the custom player on the web page in your PC browser, but not by a DLNA player. On the bright side, PlayOn has logic to skip transcoding of locally served MyMedia files when a given client device is known to reliably handle a specific file format and codec.
- Does your software run on Mac or Linux?
PlayOn is Windows-only software at the present time. However, you can find out how to run PlayOn in Parallels on Mac here. PlayOn is also reported by many to run well over VMware and Boot Camp on Mac. Although the porting effort to Mac and/or Linux is fairly huge, we would love to add the support, but it is not planned any time soon.
- Can I install this on Windows Server 2003 or Windows Home Server?
Yes, but it may require disabling Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration. See this article for more information.
- How do I install on a different drive, or specify the temp scratch space?
PlayOn defaults to installing on the same partition where Windows is installed (usually the C: drive). This also means that the temporary scratch space that is used for transcoding media files is also on that same partition. If this partition is a bit cramped, and you want PlayOn to use a different drive for temporary files, you can create a symbolic link with our Junction Helper tool. It automatically downloads a Microsoft program called Junction, and makes a symbolic link to your preferred drive partition.
- I installed PlayOn, but my device can't see it. Why?
There could be a lot of reasons, but the absolute two most common are: firewalls, and network connection issues. You have to make sure that your firewall and security software is allowing our media server to have access. You can check the status of your firewall and security software in PlayOn Settings (Start > All Programs > PlayOn > PlayOn Settings). See the user guide for more information. Also, you might experience problems finding the media server from your device if your PC has two network connections enabled (this may happen if you for example have both the wired and wireless connection enabled on your PC, so that your PC represents itself twice on your network, with two separate IP addresses).
- I can't uninstall or upgrade PlayOn. What should I do?
Sometimes, the Microsoft Windows Installer gets into a bad state, and requires a little cleanup to get things back in place. If you are unable to uninstall or upgrade PlayOn, you may want to try to use the Windows Installer CleanUp Utility from Microsoft.
Common Technical Issues
- What are the most common issues that cause problems for PlayOn?
You need a powerful processor (CPU) on your PC to handle real-time transcoding of online content. Check out the minimum requirements for PlayOn. If you're near the minimum, you may experience hiccups during playback whenever your PC is doing other tasks. Solution? Reward yourself with a new PC.
Home network speed and reliability
If you're using a wireless network for your PC or device, especially if it's on 802.11g, you are likely to experience problems. PlayOn requires a lot of bandwidth on the home network to pass over the MPEG video files to the device. Anything that may interrupt or slow down that video feed will result in an unhappy device, and you'll see excessive buffering. If you want to be sure that your home network isn't the issue, at least try using wired or powerline adapters, and see if this helps. It's always good to narrow down the variables.
A super fast PC and a robust and quick home network aren't enough if your pipe to the Internet is too slow! Your mileage will vary considerably if your broadband connection is borderline (try the bandwidth test in PlayOn Settings to get an idea). Every single content provider encodes their online videos in different ways, and at different resolutions. Sometimes videos will work fine from one source, but work terribly from another. The bottom line is, the fatter your connection to the Net, the better off you'll be.
We have seen quite literally countless instances where security software (or firmware on a router) blocks PlayOn, either by slowing things down, randomly breaking playback streams, or even squashing PlayOn out of existence. And we can't really do a thing about it, in almost all cases. Firewalls and security software is a tricky thing. There's nothing especially odd about what PlayOn does or how it works, but the sad fact is that the majority of software security packages out there just tend to block communication at some level on a home network. Or block programs even from running at all, even when the user configures them to be allowed. Our advice is to try temporarily disabling your security software to see if it helps. You may even need to go so far as uninstalling it completely (again, temporarily, and only if you're confident you can reinstall it). If you find that your security software is holding PlayOn back, contact the company that makes that software, and see if they can help. And if you learn something, share it with rest of us on the forum! You can also read Microsoft's guide for setting up Media Center Extenders with a firewall, as it is quite similar to what is applicable to PlayOn.
PlayOn depends on a lot of core Microsoft and other third-party software to run correctly. The most important packages that PlayOn requires are: .NET framework (2.0 or higher), Internet Explorer (version 7 or higher), Microsoft Silverlight (version 3 or higher), Adobe Flash (version 10 or higher), and a "healthy" Windows operating system. If you have lots of other software installed, it may get in the way of PlayOn, or cause certain functionality in PlayOn to fail. These issues, when they appear, are really difficult to diagnose and fix.
- I found the server, but why can't I see any videos listed at all?
Make sure you are in the Video category, especially on the Xbox 360, and even more so on the PlayStation 3. We make this same mistake ourselves occasionally, by accidentally going into the Music or Photos categories on the PS3. For instructions on how to find the right server and category, consult the user guide. If you still think you're doing everything correctly, but video titles aren't showing up, you may have discovered a bug. Send us a support request through PlayOn Settings (Start > All Programs > PlayOn > PlayOn Settings) and we'll try to diagnose the issue.
- Video playback is pausing and buffering all the time. Why?
This is most likely due to a networking problem or an underpowered PC. With networking, there are two main areas where things can go wrong. The first is your broadband connection. In other words, how fast of a "pipe" do you have to the World Wide Web. You can find out how fast your external network connection is by using tools like Speedtest.net or Speakeasy. The second, and more common issue, is how your home network (or LAN, for "local area network") is set up. If your networked entertainment device (gaming console/set-top box) as well as your home PC are both on wireless 802.11g, you will have a throughput problem. Your network just can't handle the bandwidth of pulling a video from the Internet to your PC, and at the same time push a real-time transcoded stream from your PC to your device. Although 802.11g is rated as running at a maximum of 54 Mbps, it is very common for data rates to be significantly lower, due to interference or other problems. We highly recommend that you have at least one of the devices (your console or your PC) be on a wired connection, or to be using wireless 802.11n. If your network seems to be in order, and the video is still choppy, you may be running with an underpowered PC, either with a slow CPU or not enough RAM. See the minimum requirements for PlayOn to make sure.
- Why doesn't fast forwarding work?
This is a tricky problem. Online real-time streams can only of course be downloaded as fast as your broadband connection and the content provider allows, so it's impossible to fast forward beyond the latest downloaded (and transcoded) point in the media. It's analogous to watching a live broadcast with a DVR -- pausing and rewinding work fine, but fast forwarding can never go beyond "right now". Additionally, many of the devices aren't set up very well to handle when the intermediary end of the media stream is reached. In these cases, they may just give up, and exit playback with an obscure error, instead of waiting and buffering. In any case, we are working on solutions and improvements to this issue, but it's technically very challenging.
- Why do I sometimes see weird error messages when I try to play a clip, like "Data is corrupted"?
This can occur for lots of reasons. The most common reason is a timeout on the device -- where the device gets impatient waiting for the video stream from PlayOn. Try to select the same video again, if possible, and see if it successfully loads. If you see that the CPU on your PC shows activity by MediaMallServer.exe, then PlayOn is most likely successfully processing the video in the background, regardless of whether your device is able to start viewing it. You may also be experiencing a service outage for a given content provider -- you should verify whether videos from other sites work or not. Security software can also cause this error, as it may block PlayOn for certain sites, but not others. It's always a good idea to check the user forum to see if someone else has posted a similar issue. Or, send us a support request using PlayOn Settings (Start > All Programs > PlayOn > PlayOn Settings). We provide free support for all installations.
- How do I configure my antivirus/firewall software to work with PlayOn?
In your security software configuration settings, you must give full local and online network access to the PlayOn server executable. On normal installations, this can be found at C:Program FilesMediaMallMediaMallServer.exe. In our development labs, we use AVG and Windows Firewall. These consistently work fine for us, so we can highly recommend them, also because they don't degrade PC performance as much as many other third-party security packages. If you're having trouble configuring your security software to work with PlayOn, consult the forum. You may also want to take a look at Microsoft's guide for setting up firewalls with Media Center Extenders, as it's quite applicable to what's needed for PlayOn as well.
- Why is my PC CPU high even after I stop watching a video?
First, it's important to understand why your PC CPU is high in the first place with PlayOn: real-time transcoding requires serious horsepower! Whenever you watch a video on your device, your PC churns along, downloading the video and converting it to a format that your device is able to play. If you stop playback on your device, no clear signal is sent to the PC, so PlayOn cannot detect whether you have only temporarily paused or stopped. In order to have the option of returning to playback, PlayOn needs to continue processing the video in the background. You can however in PlayOn Settings toggle whether videos will always be processed fully to completion, or give up after 5 minutes of device inactivity.
- Why can't PlayOn show a "loading" graphic while waiting for the video to start?
This is one of the most common suggestions we receive. Unfortunately, it's essentially impossible. PlayOn needs to send one single and contiguous video stream to the device for each play. This means that the resolution and stream parameters of the source video must be known beforehand -- which is something that is not available until PlayOn actually starts downloading the stream to begin with. By that time, transcoding starts immediately anyway, and the video can be served. We encourage all our users to write to Microsoft, Sony, and the other manufacturers of DLNA devices to change their buffering logic to accommodate servers like PlayOn that are streaming real-time transcoded videos!
- Why are the edges of my video cropped off on the TV?
This is almost certainly due to "overscan", where your TV automatically crops off the edges of the video to ensure that the video fills up the entire screen. It's there for historical reasons from the old days of analog television signals. Most digital televisions allow the user to manually configure or override overscan settings, so that the full video can be displayed without cropping. If you see that for example the "Hulu" watermark is cropped at the edge of your television screen, it means that your TV is incorrectly assuming the video contains overscan edges, and is compensating when it shouldn't. It's not due to a limitation in how the video is rendered by PlayOn. If you can't adjust your television's overscan settings, try a different video performance setting in PlayOn Settings, to see if you notice a difference (a higher setting will send a higher resolution video, and your TV may handle each video resolution differently with respect to overscan).
- Why do I see black bars on the sides of the video?
This is what is called the letterbox effect (when the black bars to the left and right of the video) or the pillarbox effect (when the black bars are on the left and right of the video). The main reason you will see this effect is due to an incompatibility between the aspect ratio of the video you are viewing and the aspect ratio of your TV. Depending on your TV, you may be able to try to adjust the aspect ratio of your TV to match the video, however, this may occur even when the video you are watching is in the same aspect ratio as your TV but the commercials in the video were created in a different aspect ratio. This may also occur when you are watching a newer widescreen format video on a widescreen TV because some newer videos are filmed in an aspect ratio that is different from the standard widescreen aspect ratios at the time the TV was manufactured.
We understand this can be frustrating, but unfortunately there is very little that can be done to prevent this from happening.
Engadget has a great article explaining framing, here: http://www.engadget.com/2009/02/19/hd-101-why-there-are-black-bars-on-hdtvs/. More information is also available on the High-def Forum: http://www.highdefforum.com/high-definition-lounge/4705-bars-bars-more-bars.html
- Why am I seeing a warning about my PC's default audio device?
This screen is telling you the PlayOn Virtual Audio Device has been accidentally set as your PC's default playback device. This will cause your PC to be unable to output sound to your speakers. You will want to set your PC's sound card as the default device by following these steps:
- Right-click the speaker icon in your task tray (lower right).
- Click Playback Devices.
- Set your PC's sound card as the default device in the window that pops up.
- Why does my PS3 show "There are no tracks" for all folders?
- Why are the video titles on my Xbox 360 always in literal alphabetical order?
This is a "feature" of the Xbox 360. Even if we tell it, "Here is the list of videos, and it's in the correct order already!", it will still resort things alphabetically. If it is really driving you crazy, we suggest you contact Microsoft and the Xbox team, and ask them to offer a solution or workaround.
- Can I hide the small "i" button that shows on the Wii?
- Why am I receiving an "Out of Memory" error on my Wii when watching PlayOn?
Unfortunately, that message means the Wii ran out of memory (at least the language is clear). Since the capability of the Wii is a bit limited, we can do nothing to fix this issue. However, inserting an SD card into the Wii and using that for storage will free up your Wii's memory and may alleviate your issue.
- How can I watch Amazon VOD videos that only show "Play" and "Download" buttons?
To watch an Amazon VOD video with PlayOn it may be necessary to first open the video in a browser on your PC. Simply open the video and select "Play". Then allow the video to play for just a minute or two, and back out of it. Then open the movie again from the PlayOn menu on your TV, and it should work. If you're still having trouble, submit a support ticket through PlayOn Settings.
- How many devices can I use with PlayOn?
- Can I stream more than one video at a time?
PlayOn imposes no limit to how many different videos you can stream at one time. You are only limited by how many video streams your internet connection and PC can handle. A recently purchased PC and a good cable internet connection should be able to handle 2 or 3 video streams at once for a standard household. The best thing to do is to give it a try and see how well it works with your setup.
- Can I watch PlayOn on a PC?
If you want to connect to PlayOn on your PC then you will need software like XBMC that can connect to UPnP media servers. XBMC can connect to PlayOn to play videos on a PC.
- None of these things solved my problem. Now what?
We wish technical support was always easy! But the reality is that there are always hiccups. If you still don't know why PlayOn is not working for you, spend a little time reading our online user forum. Make sure you read all the "sticky" posts at the top, especially HOW TO GET HELP (READ THIS FIRST!). There may also be other "Known Issue" or "Fixed" posts that address the problem you're seeing.
Also make sure you are able to watch the given video through Internet Explorer. If it doesn't work in IE, it won't work in PlayOn either.
If the forum still isn't doing the trick for you, send us a support request in PlayOn Settings.