It was without much ado at CES 2016 that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced the worldwide launch of Netflix, adding 130 new countries to the 60 that previously had access. Social Media in South Africa erupted at the prospect of finally having access to the mammoth catalogue of series and movies that Netflix offers. The question is can South Africans finally cancel their DSTV Premium subscriptions and exclusively use streaming services whilst expecting to receive a similar variety of series and movies? Do streaming services have a future in South Africa?
Excitement cooled when South African users started browsing through the Netflix SA catalogue to find a much reduced offering compared to Netflix USA. The amazing House of Cards was missing entirely, which I found surprising to say the least.
With a DSTV Premium subscription costing R699 per month, it is still the most expensive Paid Subscription Services. Over the past 24 months DSTV has added Catch Up and Express to their services, allowing DSTV clients a more tailored experience with many new episodes of popular series available within a matter of hours. New DSTV clients will need to purchase a decoder with the newest Explora costing R1,999. Premium clients are also able to use their Catch Up accounts on two smartphones, tablets or computers at a time. ShowMax has been available for a few months in South Africa, and is the closest competitor to Netflix in terms of the service offered and the monthly cost. For R99 per month you receive complete access to the ShowMax catalogue, and can stream in HD from two devices simultaneously. A similar package with Netflix is $9.99 per month. If you can live without HD a monthly subscription can cost you $7.99. Netflix’s monthly prices will remain fixed to the US Dollar for the foreseeable future.
At this point neither the ShowMax nor the Netflix catalogue can really compete with the DSTV offering on their own, but together they certainly become a compelling alternative and still at a significantly cheaper monthly price than the DSTV Premium offering. ShowMax has the complete collection of Game of Thrones available, as well as both seasons of True Detective. Not to mention complete runs of Vikings and Banshee. Netflix brings the critically acclaimed Narcos, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and the controversial Making a Murderer to the table. ShowMax and Netflix have very useful apps available for Smart TVs, Smartphones and Tablets allowing you to enjoy the content without needing a set-top box or decoder.
DSTV’s unique competitive advantage remains sporting events, and if you are a devout sports follower – be it Football, Rugby, Cricket or Formula 1 – there are simply no alternatives. I spent a great deal of time trying to find a streaming service that actually offered live sporting events or even a highlights package of an event, but most were of questionable legality and using such a service is definitely not something I would seriously consider in the long term. For me, this was very close to being a deal-breaker. I’m a major sport fanatic, giving up on live cricket and rugby is not something I’m entirely sure I’ll be able to do.
If live sport is something that you can live without, then it’s definitely worth giving ShowMax and Netflix a try as an alternative to DSTV Premium. Being able to queue and watch the series and movies that I want without having to wait for it to air on TV – not to mention enduring annoying ad-breaks – is something that I’ve quickly gotten accustomed to. I’m going to have some trouble giving up my Trial accounts of ShowMax and Netflix. Streaming undoubtedly has a bright future in South Africa, but it still has some way to go before being a truly standalone service (instead of a nice-to-have-add-on). I remain an unrequited DSTV Premium client… for the moment.
Both ShowMax (Here) and Netflix (and Here) offer prospective clients a free trial period with complete access to their respective catalogues of series and movies, it is definitely worth giving each a try!