Bored with South African television? Future TV, a start-up founded by Johannesburg IT businessman Steven Cohen, wants to give local couch potatoes access to the world’s streaming services without the hassle of having to jump through technical hoops to do it.
The company’s solution is based on a Roku device, paired with a router that’s preconfigured with locally developed “tunnelling” software to provide access to a wide range of international streaming providers that don’t officially offer services to South African viewers. They include Hulu, ABC and Disney.
Cohen started tinkering with Netflix about five years ago, when the service was only available in the US. “I decided it wouldn’t be that hard to create my own unblocking service. I wanted to pay for my content and didn’t want to download it illegally, so I worked out a way to develop an unblocking service,” he tells TechCentral.
Cohen started his career in IT in 1999 when he founded Triple S Solutions, a company that provides business-to-business IT support services. He has been actively developing Future TV for the past four years and is now ready to go to market, he says.
An initial idea was selling channel space to corporate clients, but the focus quickly shifted to serving the consumer market, too.
The company provides customers with a router that acts as a “middleman” between their existing broadband modem and their TV. Its tunnelling software is optimised to work best with South African Internet service providers, Cohen says.
Services currently available through Future TV include Netflix (the US version, though clients can opt to watch the South African one), Hulu, Crackle, ABC, Disney, ESPN, UFC (mixed martial arts), HBO, CNN, MTV, Nickelodeon and Vudu.
Sky News is also unblocked, as is Filmon.tv, which rebroadcasts the BBC and ITV channels from the UK.
Naspers’s ShowMax is not yet available on the platform as it doesn’t have an application that supports the Roku hardware.
Future TV charges US$25/month (R412 at R16,50/$), which includes the unblocking service, the required hardware and installation, for the first 12 months, after which the rate is reduced to $4/month (R66). Those wanting to buy the Roku themselves will pay $10/month (R165) for a year, after which the rate drops to $4/month.
Users must pay for subscriptions to services such as Netflix and Hulu separately.
Cohen explains that Future TV has developed apps for a number of services, including an audio channel for Gareth Cliff’s Cliff Central platform. There are also apps for YouTube, Dailymotion and others. In all, the service provides access to about 80 channels. — © 2015 NewsCentral Media