Looking to cut the cable-TV cord? PlayOn is one of the services that can help ease the transition.
It slings shows from your Windows PC to various devices, including tablets, smartphones, game consoles, media center boxes, and the like. It's akin to Roku, with your PC filling the role of "the box."
Through the end of January, you can get a one-year PlayOn subscription for $19.99, a savings of 50 percent. And the service costs $19.99 per year thereafter.
Of course, you'll probably want to take it for a test-drive first, which you can do free for 14 days. If you decide you love PlayOn, you might prefer to splurge on a lifetime subscription, which is on sale for $49.99. Regular price: $79.99.
Will you love PlayOn? You just might. The service streams TV from a huge lineup of free and premium services. In the former category, some notable channels include CBS, Comedy Central, Crackle, Hulu, Spike, TBS, Syfy, and ESPN. You can also connect to your Amazon Instant Video, ESPN3, Netflix, MLB, and/or other accounts if you have them.
Obviously services like Netflix and Hulu Plus are already available on a lot of devices in app form, but regular old Hulu is harder to come by--especially on iDevices. At this very moment I'm streaming an episode of "The Simpsons," via plain-vanilla Hulu, to my iPhone. Likewise, I'm able to access my Amazon Instant Video library, which wouldn't otherwise be possible.
PlayOn also streams media stored on your PC, which is great for remotely tapping your personal library of movies, music, and so on. Regardless of what you stream, you'll need the PlayOn server software, and you'll need to leave your PC running 24-7--the only real downside to the service. But it can connect to anything from an Android phone to a Kindle Fire to an Xbox 360. (Here's the full list of supported devices.)
The service isn't perfect. Although its interface has improved somewhat, it still lacks a search option and relies heavily on lengthy plain-text menus for browsing shows. Plus, on my iPhone, some shows stuttered a bit, despite the presence a very strong Wi-Fi connection. I definitely recommend trying before buying.
That said, PlayOn is almost a must-have for anyone serious about cutting that pricey cable cord. It serves up a wealth of TV networks and video services and makes them available in places that couldn't otherwise access them. Not bad for $20/year.