As I have become busy, so has been my ability to constantly scout for the latest and best stuff to watch on the internet. So, when it’s the weekend and I have a minute or two to spare in between my other obsession – football – I hop on to the next streaming video-on-demand platform to get my fix. That can be either Amazon Prime Video, iflix, Netflix or Showmax.
It’s easy for me to switch to either of those four services because of the circumstances I find myself in. The World Cup is ongoing and Kwesé iflix has been airing all the matches on its mobile and TV apps both for free and for a small fee. When paying to watch the matches on the go, one is presented with a cheap option to get a VIP pass as well and you can trust me to take full advantage, more so when I am getting a good deal. After all, an iflix subscription is just Kshs 400 a month.
Then there’s the hack that I applied last year that gave me an entire year’s worth of Showmax at a throwaway price. So, I can always get my emotional fix by watching my favourite Seattle people go about living their best lives on the set of Grey’s Anatomy.
Netflix is kind of a necessary evil. You’d think that I’d be pretty satisfied when I have the kind of access to as wide a collection as Showmax offers but you’d be wrong. Netflix’s “Originals” are addictive so I get to pay the $9.99 that Netflix needs from me every month just so that I can catch up with what Nairobi has been up to in Money Heist and take a tour around the world understanding people through their cuisine and nightlife in Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover when I am not being mesmerized by Caroline Quentin’s unmatched passion when presenting The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes or a host of football documentaries (it’s always about football when it comes to stuff I watch, isn’t it?) like Le K Benzema or David Dietz’ Les Bleus une autre histoire de France.
While I get Amazon Prime Video as an add-on for being a Prime subscriber (I like getting my Amazon packages first and fast), I haven’t had much use for it since The Grand Tour ended. That’s mostly because I need to rent (marketing speak for “pay again”) all the nice movies that I want to watch.
With such a background, you’d think I don’t like free things, right?
I am as Kenyan as they come and would gladly jump on anything that’s free (and, maybe, legal) at the slightest opportunity. That’s how I find myself still making use of the Plex server I set up on my computer and the Plex app on my TV and PlayStation. You really can’t blame me. It’s not my fault that I pay for Netflix and they restrict my access to Parts Unknown. Or that I have to find a way of getting the latest episodes of the The Blacklist for my favourite person because Netflix has the old ones she’s already watched.
Recently, I have found a new buddy that I thought was worth writing about here and sharing my experience with the world: Tubi TV.
Like another app I have reviewed here before, I bumped on Tubi TV by accident as I made my usual rounds (raundi mwenda) on the World Wide Web.
What struck me at first was Tubi TV’s claim to be 100% legal. After the fracas that has been Popcorn Time’s existence for the last few years, I was skeptical. And so I set out to try it out, forgetting to renew my Netflix for the month in the process.
If you have used any media app that allows you to stream TV shows and movies then you will probably be at home with Tubi TV’s Android app. It’s straight forward. Once you sign up, via email or Facebook (I used the latter despite all the privacy concerns that have come about because of granting third-party apps access to Facebook user data), you will be presented with a feed that showcases some of the films available in each category. The categories are well-highlighted in no particular order in the hamburger menu on the side. Clicking on any movie or TV show takes you directly to it and it starts streaming.
Now, this is where it gets interesting: Tubi TV is a Google Cast-compatible application. That means that if you are using a media streaming device like a Chromecast or, like yours truly, are using a Chromecast-capable device like Safaricom’s Android TV box, you can ditch your smartphone’s tiny display for the more screen real estate that your TV offers at just the click of a button. That’s exactly what I did and only the fear of failing to witness an African side make it to the second round of the World Cup made me make the switch to iflix after nearly a whole day of catching up on MTV’s Shuga, a show that many a Kenyan would be able to identify with not only because of the thematic message but also the Kenyan cast over the years which has included STL, Lupita Nyong’o and Nick Mutuma.
The player itself is simple. You can play, pause and forward or rewind at 15-second intervals.
I just wish there was an Android TV app just like there is an app for the PS4. I am just here visualizing a lazy Sunday afternoon where I am just switching from Tubi TV to YouTube to Deezer without lifting a finger to touch anything because, Google Assistant. Bliss.
All this sounds good and, since it’s legal and we’re not paying, where’s the catch?
They are not annoying pop up ads as you would get on many pirate sites but rather they’re more like YouTube ads only that you don’t get to skip them. They will show up in the middle of a fascinating flick like Unhung Heroes (tip: it may or may not be a good idea to watch it in the company of your girlfriend/boyfriend) and you’ll probably feel like throwing your remote control or phone (depending on which one is closer) at the TV or smashing your phone against the ground until you remember that the service is free and the people supplying these movies and TV series need to be paid so that we can continue watching them for free.
While the app is just as stripped down as Netflix, Showmax and iflix are, you can get more features like checking out your watch history, through the Tubi TV website.
Of course, given the confines within which it operates, there are no novelties like being able to save TV series for binging on the go or when we’re outside network coverage zones or when we don’t have data to do the streaming. For that, you’ll still need the Netflixes of this world. Also, the movie and TV show collection is kind of old and dated. You won’t find recent Hollywood blockbusters, new episodes of How to Get Away With Murder or even an enviable collection of African films like you would on Showmax.
Download the Tubi TV app from the Play Store and start binging. Just make sure you’ve got enough data while you’re at it.