The latest entrant to the online video streaming game in Australia — Dendy Direct — has now opened their virtual doors and is inviting customers to sign-up and begin purchasing, renting and playing back videos.
Dendy Direct is a pay-per-video service, rather than a subscription service, competing with the likes of Google Play and iTunes for your video dollar. You can choose to rent, or buy a movie or TV Show or Series, with options for purchase or rental in SD or HD quality.
The initial store is not very crowded to start with, offering a mere thirteen TV Series initially, and a scant selection of 30 ‘New’ Movies and 20 ‘World’ Movies. Dendy Direct has curated content and they’ve collected some titles into sections, such as Movies to own Under $10 (20 titles), Action Movies under $15 (19 titles) and then rental options in Movies to rent for $0.99, in SD of course, HD will set you back an extra $1 on top. Some of the curated content doesn’t display on mobile, so you’re better off – for now – viewing the website on a desktop.
While there seems to only be a fairly rudimentary amount of titles available, this will change. When they launched Dendy Direct advised that they had signed up an array of content providers from here and abroad, including ABC Commercial, Beyond Home Entertainment, Entertainment One Australia, Icon, Madman Entertainment, Pinnacle Films, Roadshow, Transmission, and Umbrella Entertainment, so with these quality providers on-board, the catalogue is sure to grow.
We asked Dendy Direct about growing content and they advised :
We’ll be increasing the number of titles in the library, with more being added on a daily basis. We’re also working on deals with other distributors and augmenting our TV offering. Our aim is to reach 1000 titles as soon as possible.
From the looks of things, there’s going to be some new content soon, including the new Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is due to arrive on August 20:
We’ve had a look around the store and done a bit of a comparison against the major players in video streaming in Australia to see how it stacks up. Bear in mind this is only a small selection, so you might want to sign-up and check it out yourself.
|Google Play||iTunes||Dendy Direct|
|The Raid 2 – SD/HD|
|Pompeii – SD/HD|
|The Lego Movie – SD/HD|
A Note on the availability, while iTunes and Google Play had all four seasons of The Walking Dead and both seasons of Hannibal, Dendy Direct was only offering one series at the moment. Again, we expect this to change as Dendy expand their catalogue.
|Google Play||iTunes||Dendy Direct|
|From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series|
Remember, this is an initial look at Dendy Direct; Dendy Direct fully expect their catalogue of videos will grow in the very near future.
Dendy advise that Dendy Direct is compatible with your PC, Mac, and mobile devices, including iOS and Android. There’s a native Android App now available in Google Play for devices running Android 4.3 or higher, but there’s nothing for ChromeOS. Indeed, there seems to be some sort of reliance on Adobe Flash, with the first hurdle being encountered on my Chromebook Pixel, was the DendyDirect website displaying the following error:
Not a fortuitous start, but as ChromeOS devices are quite heavily a minority it’s forgivable, though frustrating. Happily, the Dendy website works quite well on both Mac and Windows machines running Chrome, Firefox and Safari. The website also works quite handily in Chrome on Android, with sign-up a breeze and browsing through the catalogue was a smooth and trouble-free experience.
Purchasing the content wasn’t as trouble free as I’d have liked. Using the mobile browser was where I ran into difficulty, I was unable to actually purchase anything from my Android phone, I had to use a Windows PC to complete the setup, which included entering my credit card details to make a purchase. Thankfully, once you’ve associated a Credit Card with your account on the desktop, you can then purchase quite happily on your mobile.
Still, once you’ve purchased your content, you can watch it on the Dendy Direct website, or on your Android device through the app.
While the purchase shows up in my library on the desktop and on mobile, the video simply won’t play, this is down to geo-blocking – yes, Dendy Direct is only available in Australia. With Dendy Direct offering options to play back through mobile, you would think you could play movies anywhere, unfortunately if you read your Android app description you will note “Dendy Direct is available over 3G/4G networks however a WiFi network is required for playback” – odd, but it’s their choice, so you WILL need to be on a WiFi network to watch video
Watching movies through your desktop should be as easy as 1,2,3, and it sort of is. You will need to install a plugin to be able to view your video content, in Dendy Direct’s case, it’s Widevine. When you first try to playback a video you’ll be prompted to install a plugin. In Chrome and Firefox it’s Widvine, in IE it’s Adobe Flash.
Unfortunately, there appears to be an issue with Chrome: Widevine doesn’t install correctly. Firefox was also declining to play nicely. The Dendy Direct tech team are currently looking into the issues with Chrome (Urgently). It’s an annoying issue, but fortunately it’s not something you can’t overcome. Dendy Direct advised you can simply use another browser (Firefox was recommended) or re-install Chrome (not the best option).
The playback is fine with no issues once you’re logged in and the plug-ins installed. Perhaps a Chrome/Firefox extension/add-on down the track would improve things.
The Android App is pretty decent. There’s no Holo or Material Design here, but well, it works (or perhaps doesn’t). It’s pretty simple – it lists the Movies and TV Shows you’ve purchased and are available to watch. There’s also a small overflow menu to allow you to select users, refresh your library or sign out.
To watch movies, the app automatically registers your device with your account. You can register up to 5 devices to your account with the Android app, not a massive amount, but one that should be enough for most families. I couldn’t find how to de-associate a device once you reach this limit, which will prove interesting for ongoing usage while reviewing phones.
There were a number of issues I ran into with the Dendy Direct Android app, starting with the login screen. For some reason – possibly to protect from hacking attempts – you cannot paste passwords into the login fields. If you’re using a randomly generated LastPass password, you will have to type it in manually, some what of a trial with randomly generated characters; but, it seems like something you’ll only do once. Dendy Direct have advised that they will be fixing this in the next release of the Android app.
But, it was all for naught, no matter what I tried, I just couldn’t get movies to play on Android. The Wifi connection I was using was connecting to US DNS servers, but once changed to standard Australian DNS I was still unable to play the video. Due to the restriction of requiring a WiFi connection, I was unable to test on 3G/4G. Dendy Direct have advised that next month, they will be enabling an option to download your content on WiFi to take with you wherever you go.
The app also isn’t designed for perusing and purchasing content. Perhaps down the road this will be added into the Android app, but for now, you’ll need a combination of mobile/desktop browser to see what options are available.
Chromecast support for Dendy Direct is currently slated for a Q4 2014 release. That’s the official word, but with Chromecast screen mirroring an option for many devices now, you definitely have options here.
All up, Dendy Direct as a video streaming service has promise, but like any new service there’s teething issues.
Price wise, there’s some room to move here, as a whole Dendy Direct is mostly fairly competitive with the big guns of video streaming, but that’s not really enough. Dendy Direct needs a fairly big hook to catch and retain customers from embedded eco-systems like iTunes or Google Play. Dendy has a fine heritage in connecting film buffs with limited release titles, which aren’t normally available through these other channels, this is where Dendy Direct could really make their mark.
Content is small right now, but once the content begins to roll in, the service should be a lot more attractive to people wanting to watch videos at home or on the go.
If you’re a film buff, Dendy Direct is definitely worthwhile checking out, head over to their website and sign-up — it’s free and obligation free — and see how it goes.