More Kenyans are moving are moving away from traditional TV. Mainstream stations like NTV, KTN and Citizen continue to see decline viewership, and the new upcoming ones are outright suffering with negligible numbers.
Apart from political events especially those covered live, and occasionally news, many of these stations have nothing of interest to many young Kenyans.
The spread of home broadband internet by the likes of Safaricom Fibre, Zuku and Jamii Telecom is not helping their situation.
Everything you could ever think of is online, and many people with unlimited internet are now opting to completely drop traditional TV in favor of streaming.
Other than our local free to air channels, the other big loser is DSTV. They have dominated the premium market for decades, but their service does not feel premium anymore. There is not a single movie or TV show they offer, that you can’t get from legal or illegal streaming sites. And this with the added benefit of going with your own timing.
Live football remains their last hope, but with their crazy prices for the full English Premier League line up, a lot of Kenyans are not seeing the value.
Now, once you ‘cut the cord’, you cannot just rely on free streaming. YouTube has some great content, but it is not always professionally done or consistent. It gets tired real quick.
You might decide to go the other route and use illegal streaming apps, but be ready for unreliable services. The excitement of not paying for content ends really fast, once you realize the illegal streaming servers are not built like YouTube or Amazon or Netflix. These are mostly shoddy backstreet operations without the financial or technical backing.
It’s here that you decide whether you want to watch the content or the buffering icon.
Another advantage of subscribing to proper streaming services like Netflix or Showmax is the ability to remember where you left of. Those who binge watch or mix a lot of content before completing the last know this is something they can’t do without.
Another thing comes with how most of these illegal services are built. Majority require that the content is downloaded to the local machine, whether before watching or as you watch. If all you have or intend to use is a TV, this brings a lot of storage inconveniences. TVs are not built to keep content inside.
But I think the sheer knowledge that what you are watching will still be there tomorrow, and when you’re done with that the AI will recommend something you might also like is greatest.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Netflix has a lot of content. But Netflix does not show you a lot of this good content. For instance, here in Kenya, Marvel movies like Avengers Infinity War, Black Panther, Captain America etc. are unavailable. In the US, they are part of the catalog.
Netflix most watched show is The Office, but here in Kenya, you can’t find it. The same thing applies to YouTube. A lot of the good stuff is geo-restricted, including the popular Saturday Night Live videos. You can use a free YouTube downloader, but that just adds on the steps and complexity.
The same applies to a service like Hulu or HBO Go, which are only available to US users. Of course all this has to do with distribution rights. When they pay for a movie or TV show, Netflix and these other streaming services have to pay for each geographic region individually, and sometimes not all regions are available for sale.
To most techies, it may seem obvious what you need to do to open the floodgates on all this content, but believe me not everyone has a clue.
It turns out the fix is actually quite easy. You need a VPN service that allows you to access Netflix as if you are streaming from inside the US.
Before that you need a few things though.
1. Smart TV
This is no longer a new concept, and in 2019, I believe most TVs being sold here in Kenya are smart. Some have more features than others, some are better looking than others.
However, the single thing they all have in common is a way to connect to the internet. This can come as either an ethernet port, or an in-built Wi-Fi, or both.
A smart TV also comes with an ‘app like’ operating system. Mostly, this is android, and if this is the case with yours, you are ready to go.
If your TV is LG however, you might be out of luck. LG comes with a custom operating system called WebOS, and it is very limiting on the kinds of apps you can install. Their app store is pretty much useless for this Netflix fix.
2. External media player
If you fall in the LG category, or if your TV is completely not smart, you will need an external device.
This can come in the form of a media box, like the android boxes (smart tv box) sold all over the city and country. They come in different shapes and sizes and run different versions of Android.
You can get some quality ones on Jumia from about Sh4,500.
Another good one is the Amazon Fire Stick. It comes with a customized version of Android, but Android nonetheless. It also comes with the added advantage of having Alexa, Amazon’s voice controlled assistant. Speaking to your remote, you can make Alexa do things like pause, resume, skip forward, and even make Google queries.
The Amazon fire stick would be a better long-term purchase than many cheap android boxes, and it is also available on Jumia.
Once your TV is ready, you are now almost finished setting up your unlimited entertainment. As I had pointed out, you need just one last thing. A VPN connection. The good news is you don’t even need to be a techie.
Just go on the Android Playstore from your TV, android box or Fire Stick and search for a VPN service. I recommend NordVPN because having personally used it, I can speak of its high speed. Note, many VPN services only give you a small fraction of the internet speed your ISP provides. For instance, you might have paid for 10mbps on Zuku or Safaricom, but do a speed test with your VPN connected and its only 1mbps.
I also like NordVPN because of it’s incredibly easy to use, and has many server locations in different countries. Within the US, which is what we’re interested in, there are tens of locations in different cities, guaranteeing you high speeds.
Here’s a video on how to connect NordVPN on your Firestick or android box.
Bottom line is that you might have to spend a bit more on VPN, but in addition to the measly Sh1000 or there about you spend on Netflix per month, it is still the best entertainment and cheapest experience you can get.