Thanks to us all living in a global village, there are now numerous ways to enjoy the hundreds (no, thousands!) of TV shows and movies that our first world cousins have been streaming to their laptops, phones, tablets and TVs for years already.
Services like Hulu Plus and Netflix are the two largest distributors of (legally available) live streaming TV shows and movies, allowing users to watch an unlimited number of shows as many times as they like for under $10 per month. Understandably, this has rapidly become a more popular way of consuming video entertainment than regular TV, for two reasons: (1) the programming is not scheduled in a linear way, meaning that you decide what you want to watch and when you want to watch it, rather than relying on an old-fashioned TV guide to let you know when you need to watch your favourite show; and (2) it’s much cheaper than traditional cable and satellite TV offerings.
So how are South Africans accessing these services? It really comes down to two things: hardware and software/setup.
While many SA users are happy to access the services directly from their laptops or iPads, others find it a whole lot easier to have a dedicated live streaming TV box that you can keep plugged into your TV via an HDMI cable, and connected to your home WiFi network wirelessly. The options when it comes to choosing a live streaming box manufacturer are broad and include Boxee, Roku, Apple TV and Western Digital’s TV Live Streaming Media Player. While some of the first three are imported by companies in SA or available on sites like ebay or Gumtree, only the WD TV Live product is widely stocked by Incredible Connection and Kalahari. Check prices before buying though, as Kalahari is currently selling the box for R600 less than Incredible! Kalahari also sells the Apple TV 3rd generation, if you’re absolutely set on having an Apple product.
Software and Setup
1. To be able to connect to services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, users sign up for an account at international DNS services like UnoTelly. This provides a dedicated IP address (with a local server in South Africa) that users enter into their hardware to be able to watch international TV services from anywhere in the world.
2. Users then sign up for Netflix and Hulu Plus accounts. Both services offer free trial periods, but need credit card details entered upfront. The Netflix sign up process allows any credit card, including South African cards, but the Hulu Plus account requires a US credit card or US Paypal account.
To do this from South Africa, many users make use of Entropay to create a virtual credit card, and then sign up for a new Paypal account with a US address, which they link to their new Entropay virtual card. They then use this new Paypal account to sign up to Hulu Plus.
Some users who prefer not to use their own credit cards, or go through this process, make use of Netflix and Hulu gift cards (as well as Spotify and Amazon cards) through Jerry Cards, a service that allows them to choose one month or twelve month cards that are paid for separately outside of Netflix or Hulu.
3. The last part is entering the DNS and account details into the TV streaming box, which effectively gives a user access to the full library available at Netflix, Hulu Plus and even BBC’s iPlayer (using UnoTelly‘s UnoDNS Dynamo service, which is a little slower as this requires using their Dynamo servers in Ireland or Australia – but can be switched back to the SA DNS address for non-UK Netflix/Hulu content at any time).
One thing you should know though is that Hulu Plus’s wide TV library comes at an extra price: TV ads during episodes that can’t be skipped. Why would they do this if you’re paying for the service you ask? Here’s what Hulu has to say about it:
We include advertisements in Hulu Plus in order to reduce the monthly subscription price of the service. Premium content — especially from the current TV season — is not only expensive to make and license, but we also want to compensate our content partners fairly for the valuable entertainment they provide.
Hulu Plus offers what no other streaming content service on the market today can: current season episodes of popular shows like Glee, The Office, and Modern Family, and full series runs (all episodes from every season) of popular library shows.
We have found that by including a modest ad load, we can keep the price for Hulu Plus under eight bucks, while still providing users with access to the most popular current season shows on the devices of their choice.
Netflix, on the other hand, doesn’t include TV commercials at all – but you don’t have the extensive range of current TV shows that Hulu Plus offers. Typically users turn to Netflix for movies and Hulu Plus for TV shows.
At a combined price of under $20 per month (around R150-R160 a month), it’s an attractive and affordable way of enjoying TV in the 21st century.