Thursday, August 30, 2007

Integrate Your Netflix Queue with your HTPC

At home I run all of my TV, DVD, Music etc all through my Home Theater PC (HTPC). One of the latest tricks I've been doing with my HTPC setup is to integrate Netflix into the setup. In particular, I use a Beyond TV add-on that monitors my Netflix Queue (my list of movies to be rented) for movies and TV shows on DVD that are also available through cable TV. This allows me to record a movie instead of using my netflix to rent that movie. This way I only rent those dvd movies that I can't get through tv.
First a little background on the plugin. The plugin that enables this Netflix Integration is called BTV Negociator and was developed by Chez Foncuer on the snapstream forums. Back in 2005, Fonceur developed this powerful plugin to provide a more advanced conflict resolution for upcoming recordings. The original goal of the add-on was to help prevent missing recordings due to conflicts, but it has morphed into something more then that. This plugin has so many different features it will take several posts here to review them all. I'll start with one of my favorite features - Netflix Queue integration.

What do I mean by Netflix integration? Lets say you want to review the current Top 100 or Top 25 lists at NetFlix for some suggestions of movies to record? If you have an Netflix account you can also enter your Netflix ID and review your queue and review for any of those movies/shows that are coming up on your tv/cable network.

Here's how to get started:

First, Log into Netflix. At the bottom of the page, you'll see several hyperlinks like the ones below. Select RSS
This will open up the Personalized Feeds Page on Netflix. Here cut and past your Netflix ID#. This number will begin with P and then have a sequence of numbers behind the P. For instance, the ID# below is P161635. Copy this number - next we'll use it in the plugin.
For example purposes I have a screenshot of my queue with the movie Jaws in the Queue. I selected this movie for demonstration purposes knowing it is showing on my cable network within the next week.

Now download BTV Negociator from the Snapstream Forums. Here you will find more information on installing and it's additional features. There are also some help documents on Fonceur's website here.

Now that you have BTV Negociator (BTVN) installed, select the browser tab at the top of BTVN and then Netflix tab on the middle left of BTVN.

First Past your Netflix ID# (the one we cut from the Netflix page above) and select search. By default it searches for movies in your netflix queue and lists them on the page. Even if you aren't a netflix subscriber you can search for the top 100 or any of the other RSS lists using this BTVN page.
Once you search for your Queue, Top 100 list etc., BTVN will check to see if any of the listed movies are upcoming movies on your Beyond TV guide. If it finds any possible matches, it highlights them in green like Jaws is below.
If you would like to record that movie, you select Jaws with your mouse and then right click to get another menu that allows you to record the movie
Once you select record, it will set up Beyond TV to record that movie. One possible improvement planned is for the recording part of this process to be automatic. You would just set it up once and it works, but for now it is a great additional feature for me to get the most out of both Netflix as well as my HTPC.

The add-on is freeware, but the author, Fonceur does accept donations. If you use the software, I encourage you to send him beer money for his continued work on this great add-on. For the BeyondTV readers of this blog, I'll highlight a few other features of this great add-on in the near future.