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Friday, 13 January 2012

No Netflix in Media Center? Depressed? Try MCE LoveFilm instead!

The big news this week was that Netflix have finally launched an online streaming service here in the UK. I have been waiting for this for a long time and naively assumed because Netflix in is Windows Media Center for users in the US that we would also get access to the official Microsoft/Netflix add-in. However I discovered this week that Netflix users in Canada and Brazil never got the Netflix add-in for Windows Media Center. So I am now not holding out much hope we will ever see it.

I will only cancel my LoveFilm subscription and change to Netflix if I can use it in Windows Media Center. There might be a way to fool the system and change the locale of the PC to US and get the Netflix add-in but then the problem is how to change the locale back to UK for Live TV and guide data etc but retain the Netflix add-in? I did previously have Netflix working in Media Center when I lived in Thailand and used a VPN connection but I didn’t have Live TV configured in Media Center then so it didn’t matter if the PC’s locale remained set as US. There is a thread on The Green Button here about Netflix in Media Center and possible UK usage.

I’ve emailed the WECH MVP email group at Microsoft and asked the question and also posted on the Netflix forums here but so far no response and I am not holding my breath.

So now I am depressed and thinking of options, I could use the Netflix app on the Nintendo Wii that is sat in the living room. I could use the Netflix app on the XBOX 360 but I would have to purchase an XBOX Live Gold subscription and as I don’t play games online I haven’t got one. LoveFilm is also available on the XBOX 360 and requires Gold. I don’t have a Sony Playstation 3. Roku are launching UK boxes with Netflix but that’s another box, I’d rather just do it all on the HTPC. Obviously I could add an icon in to Windows Media Center to launch Netflix externally in a web browser but its not ideal.

Or maybe I can stick with LoveFilm and not give Netflix my money! My current LoveFilm subscription is for discs only and I’ve been getting Blu-rays in the post, they have countered Netflix’s UK launch and now have a new £4.99 package for unlimited online streaming only no discs but I am thinking of switching to this package.

I’ve contacted LoveFilm a few times in the past and they have no plans of doing an official Windows Media Center add-in either, shame on you Love Film! But Milliesoft have written a 3rd party LoveFilm add-in for Media Center called MCE LoveFilm.

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It looks the part the UI is beautiful but there are some draw backs. As LoveFilm is flash based its the old webpage embedded in to Media Center affair which can be tricky if the auto mouse moves don’t start and full screen the video you are trying to play. Also due to some limitation developers have working with the LoveFilm SDK/API there is no easy way of telling which movies are available for online streaming? You have to click in to each movie individually and get to its details page to see if there is a Play button present of not. So you end up clicking in to loads of movies that you then find are simply not available to Play and only available to rent (Disc in the post) which is frustrating to say the least.

Maybe Milliesoft could add some sort of overlay icon on the movie covers if a Play button is available for that title? That would help improve things somewhat. Ideally I’d like to be able to filter on all titles that are available for streaming in to one view and any titles that can only be rented are excluded from the view.

I believe Martin Millmore is currently working on a fix as it seems LoveFilm have recently changed the layouts of their pages and when I tried it the other day I was unable to get any videos to play.

Also the free version of MCE LoveFilm is limited to only display 25 titles You can compare the free and premium features here. The full version is £9.99 per HTPC which if it works I think I would buy it. I will let you know as soon as Martin has a new version available and the issue is fixed so please wait until I update this post before you install it.

1 comment:

Stuart Harrison said...

Seems I'm not the only one there are two or three threads now on the Netflix customer support forum asking about WMC. None of them have replies! Nice customer service Netflix.

http://netflixforums.net/forum/customer-support/