MultiChoice recently launched three new apps for DStv Now, supporting Samsung smart TVs, Apple TV, and Android TV media players.
The smart TV app is supported by certain Samsung smart TV models from 2015 onwards – with a full list available here.
As a regular user of my Samsung smart TV, and a fan of DStv’s SuperSport channels, I was excited to put the new app to the test.
Is the app here to replace your DStv satellite dish and decoder, or will you prefer the traditional broadcasts for some time to come? It all depends on a number of factors.
It’s not a PC
When it comes to smart TVs – and their apps – the first thing we need to establish is that these are not PCs.
I have a Samsung Series 7 55-inch 4K TV, and its specification sheet does not even include a line for RAM or memory – while the processor is only listed as “quad core”.
This is not taking a swipe at my TV, this is how all TVs are made and branded. The focus is on display quality and connectivity – not processing power.
This means that running any application on a TV – even ones made for TVs – may leave users frustrated if they are accustomed to using their PC or smartphone to run apps, due to lower levels of performance.
Secondly, while smart TVs offer Wi-Fi connectivity, they are again not on the same level as PCs and smartphones.
My TV is connected to my Wi-Fi router, which is in turn hooked up to 100Mbps fibre.
A speed test on my TV in the Netflix app, however, shows that the TV manages a maximum of a 25Mbps connection. The speed can drop to as low as 6Mbps on occasions.
A MacBook Pro and an iPhone X placed immediately next to the TV and connected to the same Wi-Fi router receive download speeds of 96Mbps and 88Mbps respectively.
Thirdly, if you are a streaming service and launch a new app, you are going to be compared to Netflix.
This is like comparing any runner who puts on a pair of Pumas spikes to Usain Bolt – you have an enormous player as the benchmark.
Making matters tougher for MultiChoice is that the Netflix app for Samsung smart TVs is arguably the best version of the Netflix service.
The Netflix app is also very well optimised for smart TVs.
DStv Now app
On to the matter at hand. To get the smart TV app, users must go to the Apps section in the Smart Hub menu on their Samsung TV.
Navigating to the search button and typing DStv Now brings up the app, and it downloaded quickly after it was selected.
When you open the app on your TV, you will be presented by a welcome screen which asks you to visit now.dstv.com/tv and enter a code displayed on the screen.
I navigated to the URL and it opened the DStv Now website – which is linked to your online DStv profile.
By entering the code shown on the TV screen on the webpage, your TV app is then linked to your DStv profile and activated on your smart TV.
Once the DStv Now app is registered and opened, you have five menus to choose from:
- Home – Features new and returning shows and movies, and subsections with themes – like “phenomenal women”, with movies with female lead characters.
- Live TV – A list of all the channels which are on your primary DStv package. All channels can be browsed at once, or a subsection – such as Sport – can be selected to looks at groups of channels.
- Catch Up – Watch DSv Catch Up content, which is split into categories, including Series, Sport, an Kids.
- Search – Search for content by typing its name.
- Settings – Change options like video quality (from 360p to 1080p) and manage devices connected to DStv Now.
Using the app
I have only been using the app for a couple days, and from this there are positives and negatives.
The layout of the app is clean, and navigating between the main menus and the relevant subsections is quick and smooth.
When going through thumbnails of series or movies at a fast pace, however, there can be input lag.
This sometimes results in pressing the right arrow key on your remote, for example, multiple times as the content selector frame is not moving – only for it to register the commands a few seconds later, resulting in the selector frame moving past the content you want.
Attention to smaller details has also been included, and the play and pause buttons on the TV remote work to control content when it is playing.
Speaking of content, both on-demand content and live channels played in 1080p (judging by its clarity), with smooth video and good sound when accessed.
The only issue encountered was the “load times” when starting new content.
For those who have never used an online streaming service or are used to their DStv via a satellite broadcast feed, this may frustrate you.
When starting a live channel feed, a cricket match on SuperSport in this case, the video feed started in a low resolution and scaled up. This form of buffering took around 20 seconds.
At the start of on-demand content, like a movie, there was the occasional “loading clock” for a few seconds after the title started playing. It then quickly scaled to max resolution and played smoothly, however.
For streaming users and those who have used DStv Now before, however, this is not an issue.
Overall, a move towards online streaming is a welcome one – and hopefully any issues with apps or new services will be ironed out, particularly with Naspers launching a new unit focused on streaming products.
This is an opinion piece.