On Friday, Roku will debut Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, its splashiest original film yet. The openly exaggerated biopic will stream exclusively on the Roku Channel, and you can tell it’s a big deal for Roku, which has even added a new home screen section on its streaming players and smart TVs to promote the film.
But like everything else on Roku’s streaming service, the free content comes at a cost: The Roku Channel is ad-supported, with no option for ad-free viewing. If you want to watch Daniel Radcliffe’s interpretation of Weird Al, you’ll have to sit through commercials.
There is, however, a workaround: By using a little-known service called PlayOn, you can record any movie or show from The Roku Channel, then use that recording to skip through the ads.
This little trick is worth keeping in mind whether you’re interested in a Weird Al biopic or not. As more companies introduce ad-supported options as an excuse to raise prices on their ad-free tiers, rolling your own recordings might help defray the costs.
How PlayOn works
Jared Newman / Foundry
PlayOn is a service that can record video from on-demand streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and of course the Roku Channel. Once it creates a recording, the resulting video file is yours to keep, and you can skip through any ads that are embedded within. (In my experience, the recordings also tend to strip out the ads to begin with.)
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PlayOn offers two versions of its service, each with different hardware requirements and costs:
- PlayOn Home creates recordings through an invisible browser running on a Windows PC. The service costs $15 per three months or $40 per year, and it supports unlimited recordings at 720p resolution.
- PlayOn Cloud runs the DVR on a remote server—no Windows PC required—and you can set up recordings through PlayOn’s iOS or Android apps. Each 720p recording costs one credit—or three credits for 1080p—and you can purchase credit packs at roughly $0.15 per recording after an initial free trial. (An optional subscription also lets you store videos over a longer period of time.)
Once you’ve made a recording, you can watch it through PlayOn’s mobile apps, or you can cast the video to Fire TV, Chromecast, Android TV, Roku, or Apple TV devices. If you’re a bit more tech-savvy, you can also use media server software such as Plex or Channels DVR to stream PlayOn’s video files.
Jared Newman / Foundry
If you’re wondering whether this is legal, the answer is “probably.” PlayOn’s recording capabilities have been around for nearly a decade, and the company says it’sneverbeensued. It argues that the service functions the same as a traditional DVR for personal recordings, and the start of its videos include the user’s name and IP address to discourage illegal distribution.
Still, PlayOn has its downsides: Because it’s capturing the actual video, recordings aren’t available until they’ve played in their entirety. The Home version is also notoriously finnicky and doesn’t support 1080p video, and neither version allows for 4K or HDR.
Because of those issues and the ongoing costs involved, PlayOn isn’t for everyone, but it’s the perfect fit for a film like Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. In lieu of a commercial-free option from Roku, this is the next-best thing.
A step-by-step setup
Jared Newman / Foundry
For most users, PlayOn Cloud will be the easiest solution for skipping ads, as it doesn’t require any additional hardware or ongoing subscription costs. And if you’re new to PlayOn, you can set up a free trial to record the Weird Al movie at no charge.
First, a couple prerequisites:
- Open the Roku Channel app on your phone or streaming device, find the movie, and add it to your Save List. This will make it easier to find in PlayOn later.
- If you’re using a Roku device, download the PlayOn Cloud Cast app, as this will allow you to stream the video after your recording is finished.
Now, here’s how to use PlayOn’s app to record the movie and watch it without ads:
- Download the PlayOn app for iOS or Android. If you have an Android TV or Google TV device, you can also install the app directly on your TV. (On iOS, make sure to hit “Allow” when asked to find devices on your network.
- Assuming you’re new to PlayOn, hit “Start My Free Trial.” This will give you enough credits to record the movie, and you can cancel immediately after signing up to avoid being auto-billed at the end..
- Create an account, then choose to start your trial. (On iOS, this uses Apple’s in-app billing system. On Android, you’ll need to use PayPal or a credit card.)
- Immediately cancel the trial. On iOS, you can do this under Settings > Your Name > Subscriptions > PlayOn Cloud. On Android, you can cancel through the PlayOn app under Settings > Cloud Plan. You’ll still get seven credits to use over the next seven days.
Jared Newman / Foundry
- Optional: Enable 1080p recording in the PlayOn app under Settings > Video quality. This will use three credits per recording instead of one.
- In the PlayOn app, tap on The Roku Channel, then sign into your Roku account.
- In the Roku Channel section, navigate to Save List, select the movie you saved earlier, then hit “Record.”
Jared Newman / Foundry
- Wait for a confirmation email or notification from the app to let you know when PlayOn has finished recording. As mentioned earlier, recordings happen in real time, so this will take a couple of hours.
- Head over the the Recordings. Tap on your recording, hit the Cast button at the top, then select the Chromecast, Fire TV, or Roku you’d like to watch on. For Apple TV, you can use AirPlay instead.)
Jared Newman / Foundry
What else is PlayOn for?
Now that you have a sense of how PlayOn works, you might come up with other ways to use it.
Its commercial-skipping capabilities, for instance, may be useful for other services that charge extra for ad-free viewing, such as Peacock Premium, Disney+, and (as of this week) Netflix. The math admittedly gets a bit tricky here, since PlayOn’s own costs can offset the savings of these services’ ad-supported tiers, but it is possible to come out ahead.
You can also use PlayOn to maintain access to movies or shows you’ve recorded, even after your streaming subscription has lapsed or the content has moved to another service. And if you’re running a media server, those recordings can help centralize more of your TV viewing into a single app.
I’ve long said that the easier cord-cutting is, the less money it saves. As streaming services come up with new ways to charge you more money or make you sit through more commercials, creative workarounds like PlayOn are worth keeping in mind, even if they involve small costs of their own–and a little extra effort.
Sign up for my Cord Cutter Weekly newsletter for more ways to stay a step ahead of the cable and streaming companies.
How do I get no ads on Roku? ›
Head to “Settings.” Under “Privacy” and then “Advertising,” enable “Limit ad tracking.” Restart your device to institute the change. To disable the clickable, annoying ads that pop up when watching movies or sports, click on the “Smart TV experience” option under “Privacy” and uncheck the “Use info from TV inputs” box.How can I watch the new Weird Al movie? ›
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, a music movie starring Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, and Rainn Wilson is available to stream now. Watch it on The Roku Channel on your Roku device.Can I watch Weird Al without Roku? ›
If you don't have a Roku device, you might still be able to get free access to the Roku Channel and “Weird: The Al Yankovich Story,” but it might require downloading a free app or casting from a smartphone or tablet.Can you pay to get rid of ads on Roku? ›
That's a long way of setting up the answer: No, there's no built-in option on a Roku to toggle those advertisements off. You can't pay to get rid of the home screen ads, either. As long as your Roku is connected to the internet, it will download and show those advertisements.How do I block ads on Roku home screen? ›
Settings within the Roku (easy)
Roku TV > Settings > Privacy > Advertising > Limit ad tracking (enabled)
New HBO Max movies and shows drop on a regular basis, and the February 2023 HBO Max schedule is serving up top titles all month long, with brand new premieres of original and recent releases like series Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: Season 10 Premiere and romantic drama film Empire of Light.Can u watch new movies on HBO Max? ›
New hit movies and episodes are added throughout the year. And of course, older episodes are available for bingeing. To see some of the featured series available on HBO Max, go to HBOMax.com/series, and for movies go to HBOMax.com/feature. To see what's new, open the Browse menu and then choose Just Added.What app can i watch new released movies on? ›
- Pluto TV.
- Press Home on your Roku remote.
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Is everything on The Roku Channel free? ›
The base tier of The Roku Channel is free to access, and any content delivered by Roku is free to view. But, as we will explain below, that doesn't mean everything advertised on The Roku Channel is free to view — some services will come with their own fees.How do I access the secret menu on Roku? ›
To access the Update and Reset secret menu:
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The Roku Channel is a free service, therefore they run ads. Roku doesn't currently offer a paid ad-free version.How much does it cost to watch a new movie on HBO Max? ›
Now streaming blockbuster movies, epic originals, and addictive series. Plans start at $9.99/month.Is HBO Max still free with Amazon Prime? ›
In September 2021, Amazon pulled HBO Max from their streaming service, Prime Video, after both company's couldn't agree on a new contract.How can I get HBO Max for free? ›
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The biggest difference between HBO Max and HBO is what you can stream. HBO Max. Stream HBO, plus SO much more. The new streaming platform bundles all of HBO together with even more blockbusters, obsession-worthy series, and exclusive Max Originals.Is HBO Max free if you have HBO? ›
If you subscribe to HBO through Amazon Appstore, Apple, Google Play, Roku Channel Store, Samsung TV, WarnerMedia, Consolidated Communications, Liberty, North State, Optimum, Service Electric Cablevision, Verizon Fios, or Ziply Fiber, then you have access to HBO Max Ad-Free right now, at no extra cost!
How can I watch movies that are in theaters at home? ›
Whether you're on your couch or on the go, we'll bring the movies to you. AMC Theatres On Demand is available on Roku, LG and Samsung Smart TVs or via the AMC Theatres website or app. Search for the AMC Theatres On Demand app on the channel store of your Roku, Apple TV, LG or Samsung Smart TVs.Is there a movie app without ads? ›
Netflix. Netflix is an ad-free streaming platform that operates on a monthly, or annual, subscription.How can I watch newly released movies at home? ›
- Netflix streaming.
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You can't really jailbreak a Roku due to its closed operating system. It's not illegal to use any of the methods mentioned above. In fact, they're all supported officially by the Roku device, so you should have no problems with any of these options. After all, you're not using any kind of trick to jailbreak Roku.What is the best movie app for Roku? ›
- Netflix. Watch TV shows and movies recommended just for you, including award-winning Netflix original…
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But Roku streaming devices have a wider selection of channels. Both devices give you access to the most popular channels like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, HBO Max, Disney Plus, Hulu, etc. But Roku offers over 3,000 free channels. The Fire Stick offers closer to 200 free channels.Why is Roku charging me $5.99 a month? ›
Why is Roku charging me $5.99 a month? If you see a recurring charge on your credit card billing statement, it means that you have subscribed to a paid or premium subscription (or someone with access to your Roku player has signed up for a channel).How much does The Roku Channel cost per month? ›
Does Roku Charge a Fee? You will need to pay for your Roku device initially. After that, Roku does not charge a fee. There's no monthly subscription.Do you have to pay for each channel on Roku? ›
There are no additional charges to watch many cable or satellite channels on your Roku device.
How do I remove ads by streaming? ›
The most effective ad block extension available is uBlock Origin, an open-source browser extension available on Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Opera. uBlock Origin is capable of blocking all on-page ads without impacting the quality of your stream in any way.How do I stop streaming ads? ›
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