It’s fair to say Kodi software has become very popular of late. An open source media centre software previously called XBMC (X-box Media Centre). First developed in 2002 and designed for use across multiple platform operating systems such as Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS. Primarily for streaming lawfully owned media such as video, music, podcasts and games streamed from the internet.
Over the past couple of years Kodi has become increasingly popular for home entertainment and evolved to provide a cheaper alternative to TV & film subscription packages with the big providers namely Sky, Virgin and Netflix. The software is free and completely legal but has come under criticism since becoming known as a tool for accessing illegal or pirated content through third-party add-ons (an update designed to increase the software's capability).
Kodi can be used in a number of ways - on a PC, laptop, Android phone, tablet or TV-streaming USB stick such as an 'Amazon Firestick'. Not so straightforward on Apple devices (iPad and iPhone) which involves jail breaking (hacking) the device which isn’t advisable. Another popular method is purchasing a set-top box which connects directly to the TV with the Kodi software pre-installed or to be added as you go.
The whole thing is highly customisable and the appearance of the interface screens can be personalised to suit. Known as 'Skins' - colours, backgrounds, layout, menus can all be changed to suit the user's preferences.
Once installed, Kodi comes with a default skin which can then be changed.
So listed below in no particular order are five of the best Kodi skins available to try out.
There are thousands of add-ons out there designed to enhance the user experience for viewing, listening to music, gaming and so on. The majority are free and legal. Some are dodgy and vary in levels of quality.
One method for applying new add-ons is a program called 'Add-on Installer' used to apply or update the add-on to the software. Installing add-ons in my opinion is not that straight forward a task for the novice user. No doubt one day Kodi will evolve to a Plug and Play format where everything happens in the click of a button.
There is vast amounts of information on the web and ‘how to’ guides dedicated to Kodi. Much more than can be covered in this post.
I found the Kodi Wiki to be quite intuitive and easy to follow. It covers almost everything you need.
Here are some of the more popular Kodi add-ons currently available.
Again, note there are many more out there to choose from.
Currently the most popular giving free access to large amounts of content including live TV, movies and so on. Available through Kodi’s add-on installer
UK Turks Playlists
Another popular add-on giving access to large amounts of classic TV shows, movies, cartoons, documentaries and adult content. Available through Kodi’s add-on installer.
Similar to Exodus with more choice of streaming options. Popular for the latest TV shows, live TV and movies.
An unofficial Kodi add-on but gives access to pretty much everything on YouTube. Also available through Kodi’s add-on installer.
Access to children’s TV shows and the like.
Unofficial add-on for BBC iPlayer. Gives access to all the regular catch up features and live BBC channels.
New in Kodi software version 0.17 and provides TV streaming much like it’s predecessor FILMON. Tested in the US and only likely to be available in the UK using a VPN.
Another new add-on that allows streaming from different sources. Also includes features for library integration of playlists on different devices.
Live sports mainly from the US including NFL and NBA.
Popular for streaming TV channels from around the world. Previously called Joker TV. Includes live sports, music channels and radio stations.
Apparently, using Kodi software to publicly show streamed movies, premium channels or pay-per-view sports events is illegal (e.g in a pub) because it involves money where the source is profiting from illegal content. As a home user you're not actually breaking the law while streaming content and not actually downloading (saving it) to your device. This is because online streaming creates a temporary or cached copy of the content without actually saving the data. At least that’s what my research shows at the time of writing!
The Football Premier League issued a court order earlier this year to block illegal streaming of live football matches on Kodi. It basically blocks the third-party add-ons from streaming the games making it more difficult to access them. The court order affects the big ISPs (Internet Service Providers) like Sky, BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk who pay between them something in the region of £5 Billion for the rights to show live Premier League games. A similar UK court order was enforced in 2013 against Peer-to-Peer sharing sites.
More recently certain add-ons have become inaccessible or disappeared from Kodi menus. This could well be the start of the some of the restrictions mentioned earlier.
Earlier this year, Kodi again came under criticism for supporting DRM (digital-rights management) which restricts viewing of copyrighted content. For example, a DVD purchased on the high street would be protected by DRM. Since Kodi is currently open-source software, it does not have DRM built in - but as it moves toward being more of a paid for TV streaming service e.g Netflix, it will need to have DRM tools for use on Android devices and Chrome web browsers.
When it comes to the legal issues, Kodi themselves haven’t done anything wrong so they are probably a bit miffed at the bad publicity around illegal streaming through 3rd party add-ons. That said, they are no doubt glad of the increased publicity as Kodi rises in popularity.
Some of the popular Kodi 3rd party add-ons no longer working or becoming inaccessible is mainly down to internet restrictions on content by ISP's (Internet Service Providers) blocking copyrighted content. Users will always find a way around the system when it comes to free stuff. One method is to install (and pay for) a VPN (virtual private network) which allows for internet access outside the control of the provider. One for the slightly more advanced user or those keen to find a backdoor.
Streaming on-demand content (TV, movies, podcasts, music etc) is definitely on the increase and Kodi is built for that purpose. It will be interesting to see how it develops and if it can maintain its popularity at the same time.