One common problem for the cord cutters is how to integrate XBMC, Netflix, Hulu and other premium content channels. In this practical guide, you will learn how to seamlessly use Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Instant Video and more with XBMC Media Center to get a unified user interface.
* Updated on February 8th 2014 to include instructions to PlayLater HD.
For Windows users, there are various ways to get premium content channels working through their websites or Windows apps, but if you are using a Linux-based home theater computer such as OpenELEC HTPC or Raspberry Pi, there is no direct way to get Netflix working.
In this guide, I will also reveal an easy way to get Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video working with the XBMC running on Linux-based computers, such as OpenELEC HTPC and Raspberry Pi, which has not been widely known before.
To complete this guide, you will need to purchase either of following software:
So, let’s have a look at these two solutions to record and stream online videos to XBMC on any device, by turning your Windows-based PC into a media server, with software called PlayLater and PlayOn Media Server that allow you to record, watch and stream premium content channels into XBMC running on any operating system.
If you wish to get a unified user interface to integrate all the premium online content from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Instant Video with XBMC media center, then the easiest way is to record movies and TV shows to your HTPC or Network Attached Storage with Windows-based software called PlayLater.
The benefit of this approach is that you can simply add movies and TV shows to the recording queue using PlayLater’s simple user interface. Then, you can add recorded media files to your XBMC library as you would for any other files.
PlayLater captures the content second per second as you would see it when streaming online. Recording time is the same as watching it in real time, so the best way is to add several movies and TV shows to the recording queue and let it to record overnight.
PlayLater supports 720P HD video quality when available, so your recordings will have good picture quality too.
Step 1: Get the PlayLater application
You will need to purchase the lifetime license to the PlayLater (get it here). When purchasing the PlayLater, I would recommend adding the HD playback capability for just $9.99, so that you can record and watch movies in 720P HD quality.
Step 2: Install and configure the PlayLater
Install the PlayLater to your Windows-based computer, add your user name and password in the “Registration” tab and finally click the “Validate” button.
Go to the “General” tab and make sure to set the “Maximum video quality” to “Max” and “Enable HD capability”, if you purchased the HD capability. You should also set the recording location, for example to “D:\PlayLater”.
Go to the “Channels” tab and type your email and password to all the services with which you have a user account, such as Amazon Instant Video and Netflix.
Lastly, you should click the “Apply” or “OK” buttons to save your settings.
Step 3: Search and add recordings to the queue
In the main screen of the PlayLater application, you can select the channel to browse or search for movies and TV shows.
For example, click the Netflix icon, select “New Arrivals” and select a movie you wish to record. Once you have started recording the first movie, you can select another one and click the “Add to Queue +” button.
That’s it. Now you can proceed with adding the media files to your XBMC media library.
Next, let’s add recorded media files to the XBMC library.
Now you are ready to start playing your first online recording from the Movies menu.
PlayOn Media Server is a unique software that runs in the background on your Windows-based PC over your home network.
PlayOn uses UPnP standard to serve videos to UPnP compliant devices such as networked gaming consoles and TVs. As the XBMC Media Center supports UPnP standard, you can serve media files with PlayOn Media Server even to Linux-based HTPCs or Raspberry Pis.
The software costs about $40 (one time fee) and you will get access to your favorite TV shows, movies and sports from Hulu, Netflix, ESPN, CNN, CBS, Amazon VOD, HBO Go and more. You can also bundle PlayOn with a PlayLater service which allows you to record any Netflix, Hulu etc. video and watch it later on any device.
What is also great with PlayOn is that you do not need to pay for a Hulu Plus subscription, but you will still have access to all Hulu channels on any device.
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PlayOn runs in the background on your Windows-based PC over your home network. It uses standards called UPnP and DLNA to communicate with networked gaming consoles, TVs, mobile phones and computers working both as an internet browser to access online media and as a UPnP media server to serve videos to UPnP compliant devices.
I am currently using PlayOn with XBMC on three different devices, an OpenELEC based HTPC, Raspberry Pi and a Windows 8 based HTPC. I have been very satisfied with this software and thus recommend it to all My Media Experience readers.
Just keep in mind that PlayOn’s transcoding video quality is slightly worse than the original source. It is not too bad, but it is a step down especially with dark areas and shadows.
Just buy and download PlayOn and install it to your Windows-based computer.
In order to register your copy, open PlayOn Settings (Go to Start > All Programs > PlayOn > PlayOn Settings) and enter the license information on the Registration tab.
Next, set up the PlayOn UPnP share on the XBMC, by going to Videos menu in the XBMC.
Select Files > Add Videos… > Browse > UPnP Devices > PlayOn (your computer name) and click OK.
Now, you are ready to browse the large collection of premium content and play your first TV show or movie.
If you want to really integrate your favorite TV shows and movies into your XBMC library, you will need to use the XBMC.MyLibrary plugin together with the PlayOn.
Before you get started, add Netflix and Hulu as a separate UPnP source in the XBMC Videos menu. For example, to add Netflix as a separate source, select Files > Add Videos… > Browse > UPnP Devices > PlayOn (your computer name) > Netflix and click OK.
Next, complete the following steps on the Windows-based PC that is also running the PlayOn Media Server.
Configuration example for Netflix:
Configuration example for Hulu:
4. Make sure that the XBMC application is running (either on the same Windows-based PC or a separate HTPC in the home network)
5. Go back to the XBMC.MyLibrary folder in Windows Explorer and run the .cmd script with the line “%ProgramFiles%\Java\jre7\bin\java.exe” -jar “XBMC.MyLibrary.jar”, where “jre7” is the latest Java version
6. Add TV Shows, Music Videos and Movies folders as sources in the XBMC and update the media library
The following video will make it easier for you to follow these steps in practice to integrate XBMC, Netflix and Hulu into your media library.
Lastly, you should consider using a Windows task scheduler to run the XBMC.MyLibrary script regularly to keep your stream links and content up to date. You can launch the task scheduler at the command prompt by typing Taskschd.msc.