Streaming platforms in South Africa: The real game of thrones

Don’t know which streaming platform to choose? It’s a tricky business

Your partner has been threatening to cancel your DStv subscription for months. There is a dent in your couch and you’re wondering how many more times you are going to have to watch Frozen 2. It’s almost time to clean the house again (didn’t you just do that?) and dishes are popping up everywhere like gremlins. Is this your descent into madness? No, who said that? You just need a stable internet connection so you can stream the day away.

The big question is… How do you pick between streaming services? 

Well, it’s different for everyone. You have never been more spoiled for choice. As the saying goes, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. So, who are the big players?

1. Netflix (The go-to)

 This American media-services provider has become a household name in recent years. Data shows that there are around 337 890 Netflix subscribers in South Africa, a figure which has more than doubled since 2018. In South Africa, however, Netflix seems to be going head to head with Showmax – a proudly South African streaming service that’s the pap to most South Africans’s wors, the people’s entertainment voice that is, unsurprisingly, giving Netflix a run for its money. Our preference? We like both because each offers something different.

 Netflix has three packages to suit your needs:

  • Basic – (R99 per month) Watch on 1 screen in SD quality
  • Standard – (R139 per month) Watch on 2 screens at a time with HD available
  • Premium – (R169 per month) Watch on 4 screens at a time with HD and Ultra HD available

The pros

  • A good user experience (it’s easy to navigate).
  • It’s unlimited, oh and no commercials.
  • Watch on any device with a stable internet connection (coughs, Faircom, coughs), whether it’s your phone, laptop or tablet.
  • Includes a data-saving mode.
  • In case this wasn’t obvious, there is content in abundance … and there’s something for everyone!

The cons

  • Geolocking – The shows that you can watch on Netflix are contingent to the region you live in. In the US, you have access to a far greater selection of TV shows and movies that might not be available in another region.
  • Content removal – Want to watch your favourite TV show? Family Guy and Friends are just two examples of fan favourites that were removed from the platform with little warning. 
  • Netflix has a habit of uploading content by season, while this is great for binging, it sucks when you’re watching shows that are currently on air.

2. Showmax (The overachiever)

If you’re not sure about this streaming service, try the 14-day free trial – mahala. Showmax, owned by MultiChoice, is also available as a free value-added service for DStv Premium subscribers. Want to get straight into it? It can be yours for 99 bokke per month.

The pros

  • A variety of lekker local content.
  • You can download as many as 25 titles to watch later.
  • Loads of kid-friendly content.
  • Exclusive, sought-after content, like HBO favourites Big Little Lies and Game of Thrones. Showmax seems to have monopolised certain parts of the market with exclusive rights to specific content such as Grey’s Anatomy and other series that had already been sold to MultiChoice.
  • Includes a data conscious feature.
  • A Showmax Mobile Only option at R49 per month

The cons

  • A new interface that is not too user-friendly.
  • A limited number of device sign-ins with a standard account. 
  • Even though Showmax is available in many African countries, it has yet to travel further across the globe with severe limitations in accessing the platform without a dedicated VPN.

3. Amazon Prime Video (The dark horse)

You might not be aware that Amazon Prime Video has a presence in South Africa, but at $2.99 (R57) per month (for the first six months) it offers an attractive alternative, increasing to $5.99 (R112) thereafter. Oh, and did we mention the 7-day free trial? 

The pros

  • Amazon Prime Video South Africa is a licensed sports streaming platform with Thursday night NFL games for the international sports fans out there. Not convinced yet? Include other sports-focused channels like CBS All Access, PGA Tour Live, and NBA League Pass to your subscription too.
  • Although Prime Video has only one package available, you are able to stream content in Ultra HD, score!
  • You can watch on up to three screens simultaneously.
  • SIgning up to a streaming service doesn’t make much sense if it isn’t compatible with the devices you own. Amazon Prime Video is compatible with a wide variety of devices and platforms, including web browsers on a PC or Mac.
  • Bonus: Are you a Trekkie? The latest Star Trek series (Star Trek: Picard) is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

The cons

  • Users have complained about the easiness and discoverability of content, however these services are constantly changing and updating their user interfaces to be more user friendly.
  • Sadly, there’s no profile functionality which platforms like Netflix and Showmax have, which means a whole lot of sharing with friends and family.
  • Amazon’s most recognisable films tend to be older despite nostalgia making a comeback, and many dedicated ‘throwback’ sites on the internet. Similar to Showmax and Netflix, they have invested in original content, like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Fleabag, Jack Ryan and The Man in the High Castle. On a much larger scale, it however seems that Amazon Prime Video is struggling to compete with the likes of Netflix in this arena.

4. Apple TV+ (The rich friend)

In the few months since their launch in South Africa, Apple TV+ has certainly stood out through its unique offering that might leave some scratching their heads, but hear us out.

 The pros

  • The service is priced at R84.99 per month, but users who buy a new iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, or Apple Mac will receive a 1 year subscription free.
  • A seamless user-experience, like with most things Apple, and the platform integrates well with other Apple products.
  • Users who have subscribed can let their whole Apple family (up to six members) in on the fun! They will be able to access content under one subscription – bargain, right?

The cons

  • They only make their own content available which means slim pickings to start off with, however it will likely keep growing.
  • Apple TV+ release three episodes to start off with, followed by one every week, making it less binge worthy than other competitors like Netflix or Showmax, unless you have the patience to wait it out (psssh).
  • Not compatible with too many devices (classic Apple move).
  • For the moment, it also seems like the service won’t include licensed content like Netflix and Amazon Prime does. You will need to purchase these titles on iTunes as they will not be covered under your subscription.
  • The Apple TV+ content is mixed with all the regular iTunes once-off buy or rent options which can be confusing. Movies generally cost around R40 to rent and R160 to own.

5. Google Play (The middle child)

If you’re a binge watcher, Google Play is not for you. This platform does not exactly follow the traditional subscription-based model, making it a one of a kind in a somewhat busy, fast-paced market. Think of Google Play as your local video store reborn.

Pros

  • Google Play doesn’t have any original content, but that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes you just want to stick to what you know, right?
  • Easy to use and navigate. 
  • Like most streaming websites, you can cast Google Play onto your TV with a Chromecast or watch on your computer or tablet. 
  • There’s a parental control function available to make sure the younger members of your household aren’t viewing things they shouldn’t.
  • Your Google Play Family Library lets you share your purchases with up to five family members. This applies to movies, apps and even games.
  • Unsure of what to watch? There’s a star rating system, which means less time wasted scrolling!
  • For the most part, movie rentals are very affordable.
  • You get access to current cable TV shows, some of which are free.

Cons

  • You pay per title.
  • Read the fine print. Rental prices advertised are mostly standard quality, so you’d have to pay more if you’d like to watch a title in HD. Rental times also vary, so tread carefully.
  • Some episodes aren’t available individually when it comes to series, and you might have to purchase the entire series, which can be pricey.

Out of breath yet? We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. Watching television in 2020 is complicated. It’s difficult to get everything in one place, and users are increasingly discovering that they need to pay up for variety and choice. We understand that everyone is different, luckily we can all agree that you won’t worry about a buffering thing when you stream with Faircom Fibre.

Who wins? Everyone, when you stream with Faircom Fibre