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Review: VU - MTN's Premium Entertainment Network


It seems that South Africa has suddenly been inundated with movie and television network services. MTN's VU, DStv's Box Office, Netflix, ShowMax and Google Play have entered the market with an ever-widening bouquet of entertainment choices, broadcasting capabilities and viewing options. With piracy, torrents and illegal downloads, it seems there's a ready-and-waiting market of untapped South African consumers, who have forgone the traditional bricks-and-mortar video store and cineplex experience for home entertainment on-the-fly.

The big idea (and primary defence) is that most downloaders are willing to pay for quality entertainment, but it needs to be accessible, inexpensive and watchable according to their viewing habits. Naturally, many have followed in the Netflix wake, offering a complete entertainment solution for those happy to pay a subscription for unlimited access to world-class entertainment.

VU - Premium Entertainment Network

One such network, MTN's VU (formerly known as FrontRow), a premium entertainment network in South Africa, has taken this offering to the next level. VU currently offers a full-range of quality movies, TV series, documentaries and music content with free streaming for MTN subscribers. The cellphone network have opened the service across the board and made the idea of switching over to their network even more attractive by allowing subscribers to stream via LTE at no additional cost. The prohibitive costs of working an uncapped data package into the mix, make their flat R99 per month offer a major draw card for first-time users.

VU

Free Content Streaming at 99 Bucks a Month!

It sounds too good to be true, but it isn't. The free streaming service and competitive R99 per month positioning may not continue indefinitely, but right now it's enough for people to get onto MTN's network, even if just to take advantage of this deal. VU is still in its infancy as a brand, but the technology behind the service is up-to-scratch and reliable enough to make this home entertainment package popular and extremely viable for users with smart phones, tablets and laptops - you can register up to 5 devices to your account.

Portable Viewing

VU takes entertainment beyond the home to wherever you are. Logging into the VU app allows you to access content on the bus or while waiting in a queue. The app bookmarks where you left off with your latest episode or movie, allowing you to catch a few minutes whenever you feel the urge. Although it would be nice to be able to edit your play list by deleting half-watched episodes without having to finish them.

The pause during play doesn't really let you pause more than 5 seconds before forcing you to return to the playlist, but a few taps of the screen and you're watching again. The playback is seamless when you're receiving a strong LTE signal and still watchable when you're only getting one bar... although expect to see the buffering logo pop-up on your cellphone or experience reduced quality streaming on your laptop. It's bearable on-the-go, but you'll want to make sure you live in an area with a strong signal for the best results at home.

On-Demand Viewing

What's great is that VU offers a wide selection of TV series, films and new releases and keep up-to-date with series like Starz's Black Sails, which gets added a day after airing in the States. The MaxVU subscription enables you to access their current TV series and older movie selection, while the PremiereVU gives you the option of renting a newer film for R15 or a latest release for R27 using your airtime or credit card. VU even have an as-and-when weekend access option for R39 if you want to steamroll through a TV series or become one with your couch.

VU - Premium Entertainment Network

Entertainment Selection

VU's selection is not comprehensive, but there are enough films, popular TV shows, documentaries and music videos to keep you going, fill in the gaps or try something new and you get to watch them at your own pace. Browsing titles is quite straightforward as categories are subdivided, the details give you series breakdowns and synopses and you've got the option to search the collection too.

The film collection isn't obvious, giving you an array of films you probably haven't had access to in the past, including classics like: The Jerk, The Breakfast Club, The Princess Bride, Rear Window and Bad Santa to more contemporary popular titles like Smokin' Aces, Spider-Man, Serenity and the Scream Trilogy. The TV series collection doesn't have every season of every show, but includes a considerable selection of classic sitcoms like: The Office and Scrubs to more contemporary dramas like Black Sails, Peaky Blinders, Sherlock, Luther, House and Breaking Bad.

Miracasting

One of the main drawbacks is that VU isn't compatible with Chromecast or similar miracasting devices yet. This won't bother you if primarily watch content on your portable deivces, but it will restrict you to watching on your devices if you're used to watching on your HD flat screen. It's probably only a matter of time, before they update their app to allow this, but it's worth noting.

The Bottom Line

While VU isn't perfect, it's an incredibly attractive entertainment solution for people who want entertainment at their fingertips. You can expect the odd playback issue relating to signal, buffering, or an intermittent time out - but it's generally stable enough to keep you glued to your screen. The Chromecast compatibility thing is an inconvenience, but with several other viewing options available, you can easily overlook this and get used to watching on another screen until this becomes a possibility. The monthly subscription pricing is very competitive, the entertainment selection is broad and varied, the portability factor will revolutionise the way you do TV and movies, while free streaming for MTN users is a massive competitive advantage! Subscribe here