Video-on-demand services like Showmax and Netflix are here to stay. Signing up means watching what you want when you want. Here’s how it works and what it costs.
Since the launch of ShowMax, followed by Netflix’s global launch, video-on-demand (VOD) services
have taken off in South Africa. This means more options for TV series and movies, instead of relying on take-them-as they- come packages such as DStv.
A VOD service is subscription based, and for a monthly fee you get access to TV series, movies, documentaries, and some exclusive content based on the service you choose. This gives you freedom to watch at any time, in any place, and on the device of your choice (laptop, tablet, Smart TV, Apple TV, Chromecast) – provided you have a reliable internet connection.
Before you cancel your DStv subscription or consider trying a VOD service, make sure your internet connection can
handle streaming, without lengthy buffering (lags). The recommended minimum speed is 4Mbps, with different ADSL packages available. But keep in mind how much data you will need, and the size of your family. Another option is fibre to the home (FTTH) – but this depends on where you live, as it’s only being rolled out in certain areas. Check with Telkom, MTN, Metro Fibre, Internet Solutions, or Vox Telecom about availability in your area, and be aware that any
streaming service over a high speed 34/LTE connection is very expensive.
Once your connectivity is sorted, you need the right hardware to enjoy streaming services. If you’ve bought a Samsung or LG Smart TV in the last year, chances are they may have the Netflix and ShowMax apps available
through their app stores. If not, a TV with an HDMI/ USB port is enough for connecting Apple TV, Chromecast, or Raspberry Pi, which brings these apps to your TV. You can stream via tablets or laptops too.
Netflix or Showmax?
If you’re cancelling DStv for a VOD service, you could afford to run both Netflix and ShowMax and have spare change, depending on your connectivity and data costs. Alternatively, sign up for a trial and see which one suits you and your family’s needs; and pay attention to how long it takes to buffer.
ShowMax is cheaper at only R99 a month for over 1 000 titles in its catalogue, across many genres like Hollywood, Best of British, kykNet, and Kids. The price includes linking up to five devices (great for families), and streaming on two simultaneously. A unique ShowMax feature is that you can download up to 25 titles for ‘offline’ mode to watch when you’re not connected to the internet. You can also choose the quality of your stream, controlling your data usage.
- Cost: R99 a month
- Payment: Credit Card, PayPal, eBucks, prepaid vouchers from supermarkets
- Free trial: 7 days
- Other: Download 25 titles for offline viewing
Netflix, on the other hand, differs across regions. The SA version has about 950 titles to choose from, including Netflix-original shows like House of Cards, Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black, and Daredevil. A basic subscription costs $7.99, which is about R120 (billed in rands, based on the exchange rate), and lets you stream
on a single device. The advantage of Netflix? When its original content is released, you can binge watch the
whole season immediately!
- Cost: $7.99 (R120): single viewing; $9.99 (R150): HD viewing and two streams; $11.99 (R180): up to
four simultaneous streams in 4K (ultra HD).
- Payment: Credit card
- Free trial: 30 days
- Other: New Netflix-original shows available immediately
How DStv compares
- DStv Premium: R759pm. Works with an Explora decoder: R1 499 excluding installation. You receive access to all channels; and for an R85 access fee, it includes Catch Up and Box Office.
- DStv Compact: R345pm. Works with a Single View HD decoder: R399, or R599 with installation. You receive limited channels for movies, TV series, sports (some HD) and kids’ shows.
- DStv Family: R219. You will also need a Single View HD decoder. However, it offers a very limited selection of channels.
Tip: Check with a DStv accredited installer in your area for more cost-effective rates to set up and install.
What else is out there?
There are other ways to get your hands on the latest TV series and movies, and while there are sites that stream content for free, it’s all done at your own risk. Be wary of any free service as there’s always something being
compromised. Additionally, if you’re an MTN customer, the network has its own streaming service called VU. It has a weekend pass of R39; a month-to-month option for R99, and you can rent movies from R15 upwards. The data used for VU is zero-rated by MTN: this means it’s free and does not count towards the data you use.
FEATURE: NAFISA AKABOR PHOTO: FOTOLIA.COM