The internet has changed several aspects of our lives including, of late, the way we watch TV. Years back, when there was a favourite show on TV, the viewer would be forced to watch it at the stipulated time and if you missed it, nothing could be done about it.
Then came the VCR (video cassette recorder) which meant you could record the show if you were going out and watch it later.
Now things have changed drastically and you can’t actually miss anything. Not with sophisticated decoders like the DStv Explora which can be set to record via the internet or hand-held TV sets that fit in your pocket.
Then there are the tablets which can access internet content that can be streamed for free or for a fee.
Netflix is doing this very well in the US and the Americans do not necessarily have to organise their schedules around the TV programming because with the service they can watch what they want when they want. The internet service allows them to watch different material on an array of devices in one home and in turn there are few or no fights over the TV remote control.
So far the closest we have got to this is the Explora which is an advanced decoder that can not only record and package popular content on TV, but it can also access top shows from the US for download at about the same time they premiere in the US. So titles like House Of Cards, Scandal and The Walking Dead become available to us shortly after they air in the US. This in turn hurts websites like The Pirate Bay who take pride in distributing the same content online for free.
Now, challenging what the Explora offers is another alternative, VIDI, which, like Netflix, is a streaming service where account holders can access TV content as and when they want to. The initiative is powered by Times Media Group and they offer a number of movies and top TV series like Breaking Bad and Grey’s Anatomy. In fact, they have just advertised that four seasons of Ugly Betty are also available.
In an to attempt to be competitive. the entertainment service has signed a deal with BBC Worldwide and the SABC. From BBC we will get the hit series Atlantis, among other shows, while the SABC will bring you the drama High Rollers which stars Xolile Tshabalala, and the kids’ show URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika. Of course, their database is increasing and in time there will be more to watch.
As great as that may sound, VIDI comes into play at a tricky time because of several factors. To begin with, as a service that depends on the internet, VIDI is operating on shaky ground because our internet connectivity is still in its infancy. As such, consumers pay through their noses, the connection speeds are poor and with Eskom being unreliable, the situation often worsens.
Then there is the issue of external hard drives which are sold at most departmental stores. While they depend on downloaded material, not everyone has to go online to download. It only takes one person and the rest just copy the files of all the movies and TV shows onto their drives and watch them as and when they feel like it.
For VIDI to come out with BBC and SABC content (even Ugly Betty) is not enough. We have seen these shows before and they are not really worthy of you signing up to a new service.
Yet this is the same problem Netflix had at first and they unlocked the puzzle by making their own material which is exclusive to them. So VIDI has to shy away from commissioning out dated material and produce its own. Imagine if they had something as grand as Isibaya or a soapie to rival Generations. This would go far in getting them recognised and making them a worthy choice.