Review: Cut your pay-TV cord with UnoTelly

I’m still trying to wade my way through UnoTelly, an online service that gives fans in TV drought-ridden countries like South Africa access to a whole raft of the very latest content from leading services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, BBC iPlayer and so on.

And by very latest, I mean exactly that – UnoTelly has given me access to the latest episodes of Modern Family and Big Bang Theory – all streamed to my PC during office hours, purely for research purposes, of course.

This is not pirated content, downloaded using Torrent technology or dodgy pirate sites – it’s the real deal, from “official” channels like ABC, CBS, the BBC and so on. It’s just not available in South Africa.

UnoTelly circumvents all of that geo-blocking malarkey by fooling these foreign sites into thinking that users are “local”, living in the US or the UK.

Users can even get full Netflix access by registering as a US resident; I haven’t done this yet. Same for Hulu Plus or Spotify.

It’s a guilty pleasure being able to see content we’re not supposed to see. If users are a stickler for all things legal, UnoTelly’s Kostas Polichronos says that UnoTelly is “absolutely legal”.

“In simple words, our service allows users to access services that are already free or paid, but barred only due to nationality,” he says.

“On accessing paid content like Netflix, users will still have to subscribe to Netflix’s paid plan. Most importantly, users will be watching all the shows directly on rightful owners’ Web site and contributing to the advertising revenue of the rightful owners like Spotify.”

Polichronos also maintains that established services like Netflix are fans.

“Netflix actually love us because we are helping them to get members who otherwise won’t be paying for Netflix,” he says.

“A Netflix PR told one of our sources that during last year’s South America launch, CEO Reed Hastings is aware of usage of Netflix in South America even before the official launch by using services like UnoTelly.”

And if new research is anything to go by, big media needs to pay attention to services like UnoTelly: the NPD Group says that faced with escalating pay-TV fees, countless viewers will go online.

Based on the latest information from NPD’s Entertainment Trends in America report, pay-TV cord cutters reported cancelling their subscriptions primarily because of economic considerations.

However, they are still accessing TV programming from free-to-air broadcasts, from free Internet TV, and via lower-priced subscription video-on-demand (S-VOD) services, like Netflix.

“Despite the plethora of OTT options for movies and TV, most consumers want their pay-TV providers to be central and relevant to the acquisition and viewing experience,” says Russ Crupnick, senior VP of industry analysis for The NPD Group.

In fact, 59% of pay-TV subscribers preferred having one single provider for their pay-TV services, compared to 21% who desired multiple providers, and 21% who expressed no preference.

Sixty-two percent of subscribers wanted premium TV, either delivered by their pay-TV provider directly or from a service affiliated with their pay-TV provider. Only 20% of pay-TV subscribers were likely to cancel their pay-TV service, if they could get their favourite shows online.

“Pay-TV providers offer a convenient, one-stop shop for subscribers, and the majority of customers like it that way,” says Crupnick.

“There is an open window for the industry to meet consumer needs and become to television what iTunes is to music; however, there is also a definite risk if pay-TV providers don’t capitalise on the opportunity – and soon.”

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