Tag Archives | Web Video

The Problem With PlayOn's Subscription Model

When someone I know buys a video game console, sooner or later I ask if they’ve tried PlayOn. The Windows software essentially tricks the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 or Wii into thinking that Web video content is stored on your local network, letting you watch Hulu, ABC.com and more on the big screen while your computer quietly handles the streaming.

One of the main reasons I’ve advocated PlayOn to fellow Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 owners is that you only pay $40 for the software once, and then you can use it forever. That’s about to change on May 20, when PlayOn moves to a subscription model: $40 for year one, and $20 per year after that.

PlayOn swears that the money will be put to good use by funding “continued development and support.” The subscription product will be dubbed “PlayOn Premium,” and will include a couple more sources for online video, a “Gold” version of Wii support and a promise that PlayOn will add more features over time. But do you feel comfortable paying for a promise?

The problem is that PlayOn subscribers aren’t paying for the delivery of content, or even the content itself.  They’re only paying for the continued right to use software, which would technically still function even if PlayOn’s owner, MediaMall, folded tomorrow. This would be like Microsoft demanding yearly payments from Windows users to fund updates and future versions. It just doesn’t work that way when software isn’t tied to a tangible, recurring service.

I’m glad PlayOn will let existing owners continue to get basic functionality for free, including Hulu. PlayOn’s even offering one year of premium service to existing users for $5 instead of $40. But it would make a lot more sense for PlayOn to build the new features first, then charge users a la carte to add each one — kind of like an app store. It beats paying PlayOn a yearly allowance and hoping it’s spent wisely.


Redux and Boxee Make Hours of Uninterrupted Randomness

Could you sit on your couch and watch a steady stream of randomly-selected videos from YouTube and other sites? Redux hopes so, bringing its service to television through Boxee’s software for set-top boxes.

I hadn’t heard of Redux before its Boxee partnership was announced today, but it seems destined for the television. You set up an account and select from a list of interests, such as humor, art or video games, and Redux automatically creates a playlist, letting you sit back and watch without hunting for new clips. You can also follow like-minded people through the service — or sync with people you already follow on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace — to see what they’re watching.

It’s easy to see Redux’s disposable entertainment as something to play in the background at a party or after stumbling back from the bar — things like the Toronto Raptors’ mascot swallowing a cheerleader, a random fight on a bus, or an epic steel drum solo. At a computer I wouldn’t necessarily need these videos chosen for me, but from the couch it could be fun to turn on Redux and let the user-made content come to you.

There are some things I wish were different about the service. I personally don’t like the user comments that pop up when watching a popular video, so it’d be great if you could toggle them off. And because I don’t have a set-top that supports Boxee, I’d like to see Redux on other set-tops, Blu-ray players, game consoles or televisions. I’m told both of those gripes will be addressed in the future.

Redux, however, doesn’t plan to add premium content, which is a shame. I can understand that the service is all about people sharing videos made by other people, but I’d love to see Redux apply its brand of serendipity to TV shows and movies. There’s only so much user-made content I can take now matter how it’s delivered.


New RealPlayer Moves Web Video to Devices

RealPlayer LogoWant a reason to check  out RealPlayer SP, the new beta of the next version of RealPlayer, a media player that most of us have used at one time or another but which is no longer omnipresent? It’s got a new feature that’s pretty cool: the ability to easily download video from YouTube and other sites, convert it, and then get it onto a bevy of devices.

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