My Family Cinema app

Cool factor 4/5
Usability 2½/5
Value for money 5/5

The availability of video streaming services has exploded in recent years, giving TV buffs more choice than ever. Just this week the UK’s BritBox held a launch event. It will go live in SA on August 6.

But being in SA can be a disadvantage — several services don’t operate here unless you apply technical workarounds in the form of VPNs and account sharing.

The My Family Cinema app is appealing because it brings some inaccessible shows from other regions straight to your TV without needing a VPN. It is an Android-only app that can be downloaded off the Google Play Store, which I loaded onto a Chromecast 4 dongle directly from my TV.

The My Family Cinema app is software that collects shows and presents them to you like any other streaming service. The difference is that it includes shows from Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+ and Prime Video under one price plan. You can also import cloud libraries.

The service gives users a one-week free trial and I highly recommend you test it before signing up. Getting started does require some technical know-how; set-up is not straightforward. When you register, you will be sent a link to a video that explains the process — don’t skip it.

Its "list" of available media can be deceiving. Each item in the library has a Y or N at the bottom to indicate if a media file is attached to it, which tells you if you’ll be able to watch it. The homepage has a list of movies currently showing at the box office, or that are popular hits or classics. The library contains kids’ shows as well.

I’ve been able to watch the new Cruella movie (Disney+), the rebooted Gossip Girl (HBO Max), Gunpowder Milkshake (Netflix US) and other new shows without worrying about a VPN.

There are downsides: sometimes the frame rate drops suddenly, which affects quality; HBO can take a long time to load; and there’s no "continue watching" tab — you have to keep going back to find your shows.

My Family Cinema is not a seamless experience; you may find the bugginess frustrating, but it is convenient because it brings multiple services under one price plan. Subscription starts at $3.49 a month, or $29.99 a year.

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