MultiChoice, through its sister-company Irdeto, recently ordered the takedown of Kodi add-ons for Showmax and DStv Now which were created by New Zealand developer Matt Huisman.
Kodi has an unfortunate reputation of being associated with copyright infringement. Particularly, infringement involving unlawful streaming services.
At its core, Kodi is a home theatre application that helps keep your collection of media organised. However, its powerful add-on system makes it a popular choice among those who download or stream videos from sources that have not legitimately licensed the content.
Kodi is not the only software that offers excellent functionality for home theatre set-ups, and Plex is an example of one such alternative which is also open source.
Organising your home media
A core feature baked into software like Kodi and Plex is the ability to automatically get metadata about media and categorise it accordingly.
The software knows what to look up by the filenames of the videos on your hard drive.
For example, if you rip a movie from a DVD you own and use the film’s title as the name of the file or directory it is stored in, Kodi can query an online service to find more information about the film.
If there is more than one movie with the same name, you can add the year of release in brackets after the title to help it find the right information.
Kodi will download the movie’s poster to show on its interface, along with details such as the cast and director. It will also use this metadata to categorise movies according to genre and enable searches within its interface.
It does a similar thing for TV shows, looking up details such as the names of episodes and keeping track of which episode you’re on.
Something copyright holders may not like is that Kodi has no way of differentiating whether you got a video through buying it from a legitimate source, or by illegally downloading it.
The organising engine therefore works its magic regardless of whether you downloaded something using BitTorrent, or whether you extracted it from a DVD you own.
Kodi can also handle music, and may be configured as a PVR for live TV.
Besides its built-in ability to organise your media library, Kodi can be used to access services like YouTube, Twitch, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video with the correct add-ons.
Getting this integration to work can be finicky, and it may also stop working if the services change something on their end which the third-party add-on developers need to compensate for.
Currently, the pre-release version of Kodi, version 18 “Leia”, has working add-ons for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
In testing, Kodi 18 also had AirPlay support built in, provided you enabled the relevant settings to turn it on. However, it only reliably worked for streaming audio. Netflix also did not successfully cast to Kodi during the test.
Kodi runs on basically anything
The main reason it would be great for DStv Now and Showmax to have Kodi apps is because you can use Kodi to turn any TV into a “smart” TV.
Devices like Google’s Chromecast offer a cheap alternative to stream media to a large screen, but it is not a standalone media player and requires a linked device to work.
While MultiChoice has apps for media players, game consoles, and specific models of smart TVs, not everyone has access to those devices.
Kodi runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, and even Raspberry Pi, allowing people with a bit of tech knowledge to build their own media devices.
Unfortunately, critical software components allowing these add-ons to work can break and it is understandable on some level that MultiChoice may not want to officially support apps on the Kodi platform.
Sadly, it has made it clear that it won’t tolerate unofficial support either – sending Kodi users a clear signal about where they are welcome.