How I use Playon/Plex to view Netflix content during primetime

  • 2
  • Idea
  • Updated 7 months ago
  • Not Planned
So here is basically what I have.

1.   Windows 7 laptop
2.  Seagate 4 TB USB external HD
3.  Netgear wireless router
4. APC Battery Backup
5.  Playon software to download video
6.  Plex software to sort and transmit video to Roku
7.  Roku with Plex channel installed


So the first thing you need to do is pick a laptop that you can dedicate to being a server.  Something you won't really use for anything else.  

For storage I chose to use an external hard drive.  You can buy a Seagate 4TB external USB hard drive for about $100 on Amazon.  Seagate sells two versions of their external hard drives.  The Desktop version is cheaper and has to be plugged into a 110V power outlet.  The portable version gets its power from USB.  I messed up and ordered the desktop version.  It works fine, but I recommend the portable version since you won't have to use a power cord.

Wireless router is self explanatory. You should already have one.  I plug my laptop directly into the wireless router via an Ethernet cable.  The wireless router then broadcasts to my other devices such as the Roku and my other laptop via wifi.

I consider having a battery backup to be important if you want things to be reliable.  I am using an older APC 350 model.  I've no clue what I paid for it but you can find APC battery backups on Amazon for less than $50.  I keep my Exede modem, wifi router, and external hard drive plugged into it.  If the power fluctuates or goes down, my network and hard drive stay on because of the battery.  I do not plug my laptop into the APC battery backup because the laptop already has its own battery.  Its been a while since I've tested my battery backup, but I believe I get at least 20 or 30 minutes of power when the electricity goes out.  Obviously the more stuff you plug into it, the less time it will stay on in the event of power failure.  Only plug low power devices into it.  

The Playon software is what you need to download content.  First you must have a Netflix and or Amazon Prime account to get video.  Make sure you are able to watch video on your computer using Internet Explorer.  The version of Playon I am using requires at least Internet Explorer 10.  I downloaded and installed whatever the latest version of Internet Explorer is for Windows 7.

The Playon software costs money.  They have monthly, yearly, and lifetime plans.  I bought the lifetime plan for about $50.  The best way to get the  best deal is to pretend you are about to buy it and then close out the browser.  You will get a popup offering you a lower price.  I think they originally wanted $70 before I received the $50 offer.

Next install Playon.  It will ask you where you want to save video.  Select whatever drive letter your USB external drive is on.

Playon will prompt you for your passwords for Netflix and Amazon.  Once you have everything setup it will shows all sorts of channels it can download from.  I was downloading some retro TV from NBC classics at first but I began having problems where downloads would fail.  I've found Amazon and Netflix to be the most reliable places for content.

In the upper right corner of the Playon software you will see an option that says off peak.  Click on it and then click on advanced settings.  From there you can manually select what hours you want to record.  I have attached a screen shot showing how mine is set. The schedule I am using is strictly outside of peak hours.  I only download content at times I know the Exede network will not be busy.





Playon does have a viewer you can install on your Roku but I don't recommend it.  The Playon viewer works but it doesn't do a good job at sorting content and marking stuff your have already viewed as watched.  Basically its a mess trying to keep track of what is new on your device and what you have already watched if you rely on Playon alone.

The next step in my media service is to install the Plex software.  This is a free program you can download to your laptop.  When you install it, it will ask where your content is located.  Simply point it to your external USB drive.

The next step I recommend is to make sure both shortcuts for Playon and Plex are in your startup folder.  This ensures they will both run whenever you have to reboot your laptop.  I reboot my laptop every few days after 4pm when Playon is not downloading content.

Now that your computer is setup, go to your Roku device, find and install the Plex channel.  Follow the prompts for it to install and detect your laptop which is already running the Plex server.

Thats pretty much it.  I'm sure I skipped some details, but there are plenty of tutorials out there on the internet on how to install Playon and Plex.  I did the whole thing without any instructions whatsoever.

My monthly cycle with Exede ends on the 4th.  So far I have downloaded 140 GB of data this cycle on a Liberty 12 plan.

When the zombie apocalypse happens and the Exede data center is overrun, I'll still be able to watch Netflix from the comfort of my home.
Photo of Stephen Rice

Stephen Rice

  • 1782 Posts
  • 784 Reply Likes

Posted 7 months ago

  • 2
Photo of Stephen Rice

Stephen Rice

  • 1782 Posts
  • 784 Reply Likes
Keep in mind this is what I do and it works for me.  I'm sure there are other ways out there to get the same result and others are welcome to experiment.  

I am not on a congested beam so this works perfect for me.  

Nothing I did was special. I didn't use any custom software or equipment.  Everything worked straight out of the box.  You might have problems settings this up, you might not.

I can try to offer help if anyone wants to try this, but there are plenty of websites and youtube videos out there describing how to setup this software in more detail.
Photo of Bradley

Bradley

  • 940 Posts
  • 293 Reply Likes
What happens to the recording if/ when download speeds drop below an acceptable rate.  Does it only record buffering/ broken video, or does it pause/ restart the download and wait for speeds to rise?  You may not have had any in off peak times.  There is no off peak for me, but this may be a route I take if I can acclimatize to watching video in 480p (I'm not liking it at the moment).  I can see scenarios where unlimited plans will be throttled to nothing at times.  Kind of interested in what happens if you are recording during those times.  
(Edited)
Photo of Stephen Rice

Stephen Rice

  • 1782 Posts
  • 784 Reply Likes
Video quality will suffer but it will continue to record if your bitrate drops. I know this because I accidentally let it record for a couple of hours after 5 pm one evening.

This is why the off peak scheduler is so important. Schedule it to only record during the hours you know your speeds will be good.

Hint: 1 to 5 mpbs is perfectly acceptable for streamimg and recording video.
Photo of Old Labs

Old Labs

  • 3134 Posts
  • 3085 Reply Likes
Schedule it to only record during the hours you know your speeds will be good.
Swell... there goes my non-peak performance! Is that a public traded company, I might want to buy a few shares before revenues rise as all those unlimited Exede users jump on the PlayOn bandwagon ;)    
(Edited)
Photo of Stephen Rice

Stephen Rice

  • 1782 Posts
  • 784 Reply Likes
People are lazy. I seriously doubt more than a handful of people will attempt what I am doing.
Photo of VeteranSatUser

VeteranSatUser, Champion

  • 2152 Posts
  • 1139 Reply Likes

Good instructions!  Now I use a product called Nightshift which was tremendous.  Sadly, it was limited on what devices it could be used on.  It is still working for now but at some point I will have to transition away from it I am sure.


Just curious.  From your instructions, it appears you are viewing the videos on the computer then?  What about being able to view them on a TV?  I think that has been described but I don't fully understand Roku.  As far as viewing Netflix or Amazon on tablets, that can already be downloaded on the tablet locally and saved for viewing later.

  I would watch video on a tablet before a computer, so that is why I am asking about the TV angle with what you describe above.  Thanks!

(Edited)
Photo of Bradley

Bradley

  • 940 Posts
  • 293 Reply Likes
Roku in a nutshell allows you to stream to a TV that isn't a "smart" TV.  Plug it into your hdmi port, and you gain access to the internet (and apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime) through the stick.  Roku has it's own channels that are free, but mostly it allows access to subscriptions you already have on a TV that wasn't designed for internet access originally.  I've been doing a little research into what is called casting to a TV.  Streaming for me will be limited to 480p.  I can't seem to get used to a grainy picture.  In an attempt to save some data and watch select shows/ movies in 1080 or 4k, I'm considering ways to cast or "mirror" from my devices to the TV set.  I can download shows/ movies (on subscriptions that allow it) in whatever resolution I choose using different ISPs (mobile for instance).  I don't know if a Roku can be set to a specified router to stream "in house" content like the set up mentioned above.  

I know you can then "mirror" IOS devices to the TV using Apple TV, but that is cost prohibitive (close to $200 for 4k).  There are also digital AV adapters, but I don't like having my device lay beside the TV (too lazy to get up each time to pause or change shows).  

For Droid users Chromecast works, but I don't use a Droid.

Does anyone know of a cheaper/ better way to take download content and stream to a TV using Apple devices?
Photo of VeteranSatUser

VeteranSatUser, Champion

  • 2152 Posts
  • 1139 Reply Likes
So the Roku interfaces with Playon? I have Chromecast will will display video off my tablet (and sort of works).
Photo of Bradley

Bradley

  • 940 Posts
  • 293 Reply Likes
That's my understanding.  I don't use Playon.  Nightshift quit taking new customers a while back.  
Photo of Michael McDowell

Michael McDowell

  • 336 Posts
  • 93 Reply Likes
I know you can play local content with the Roku/Plex combination.  My son has over 2k movies on his Plex system that he can play through the Roku.
Photo of Michael McDowell

Michael McDowell

  • 336 Posts
  • 93 Reply Likes
Roku does have an app/channel for Playon.
Photo of Bradley

Bradley

  • 940 Posts
  • 293 Reply Likes
Excellent.  Thanks for letting us know.  Can you stream different videos to different TVs at the same time with Playon (prerecorded content)?

Can you download to multiple PC's and use a flash drive to transfer content?
(Edited)
Photo of Michael McDowell

Michael McDowell

  • 336 Posts
  • 93 Reply Likes
Guess I really can't answer that.  I've watched content on my pc but not on the Roku.  I don't have it all set up yet,  have the app on the Roku's but haven' t tried to watch from there.  There is one setting on the Playon desktop program that does ask you to choose a devise to cast the video to and it wants you to pick one from a list.
Photo of BBwithdrawls

BBwithdrawls

  • 64 Posts
  • 19 Reply Likes
I use the Playon software , it works as advertised and I paid 18 yr for it  , it actually records as it plays in an ' invisible browser" it doesn't download, I dont have satellite currently ( T1 at a blistering 1.54 Mbps) but I can set it up with the manager and download all night long and i usually have a entire series waiting on me in the morning .I was a little disappointed in the files size it saved , it saves the file as a .mp4 and each episode ( hour ) is 1,2 gb , I changed the resolution and still at 700-800 mb or each episode at 720. I can l play the devices with VLC on a firestick or a tablet, its a great tool, and for 18 dollars a steal, I can usually find a download of that same series in the same or better quality  in an .mkv file at half the size but it is harder to play thru plex or vlc firestick , VLC on a computer will play any file   
Photo of Stephen Rice

Stephen Rice

  • 1782 Posts
  • 784 Reply Likes
Photo of Bradley

Bradley

  • 940 Posts
  • 293 Reply Likes
Thanks for posting. I see now why the Plex is a good combo.
Photo of Deku

Deku, Champion

  • 591 Posts
  • 264 Reply Likes
YOOO stephen i have the portable usb hard drive :D i have the 1tb i ordered off from amazon :D but it has been 1 1/2 to close to 2 year/s since ive ordered it... but the first 6 months... i hard ever used it... cause i didnt know what to use it for... BUT!!! thats when i realized my friend showed me IDM (aka internet download management) but anyhoo i LOVE my IDM so much :D so now i use my portable hard drive with the usb for downloading videos onto my computer THEN transfering them over to my portable hard drive :D and i can bring it into my room and watch it onto my xbox one :D

P.S. a quick thing to remember... ALWAYS I MEAN ALWAYS TRY NOT to show your ip address or ELSE someone onto youtube can ACTUALLY use your ip address and so on and do horrible stuff to your computer and so on DX but yeah just thought id show ya also ive commented onto your youtube video if ya see a deku-izuku-midoriya comment on it THAT IS ME :D please reply thanks!!! :D
Photo of Stephen Rice

Stephen Rice

  • 1782 Posts
  • 784 Reply Likes
Thanks for the heads up.  I edited the video to remove the parts showing my IP address.
Photo of James Irvin

James Irvin

  • 68 Posts
  • 16 Reply Likes
I’m a recent convert to the PlayOn religious sect.

It’s pretty great with the new excede plans...

I’m wondering why my stupid Samsung tv won’t play those files.
Guess it just didn’t have that codec built in.

Stupid t year old tv. Plays great thru AppleTV, etc.

Thank god for universal remotes (I’m lookin’ at you Logitech Harmony).
Photo of James Irvin

James Irvin

  • 68 Posts
  • 16 Reply Likes
Addendum:

Just picked up a roku+ for travel-about 25 bucks on amazon.

Plex and PlayOn both cast like a champ from my home server behind an Asus router and that monstrosity that excede calls a modem/wireless router.

New “silver ‘unlimited’ “ pioneer and tweaker, here.
Photo of Jim16

Jim16, Champion

  • 1738 Posts
  • 1399 Reply Likes
Roku's are great.  I switched from Appletv to Roku and  it performs better and has better apps then Apple, in my opinion.