A couple of years ago we (here at Webafrica) got into a bit of trouble (with local TV giants who shall remain nameless *cough*DSTV*cough*) for posting a blog on how to stream Netflix in South Africa.
The article went out in the days before Netflix South Africa was a thing, and before Showmax had hit the scene.
Today we are just as excitable about our online streaming as we were back then, but luckily now days it’s a lot easier to do it, legit.
With internet access becoming faster and cheaper all the time in South Africa, it stands to reason that more and more people are turning to the joys of on-demand streaming.
What you’ll need in terms of web access: a 4Mbps line, although we do know people who stream on a 2Mbps line, you just can’t do anything else online at the same time and you will wait for buffering.
For those who watch only in the evenings and over weekends, 170Gb a month should be plenty to manage one screen at a time.
SA’s Top Online Streaming Sites
As of early 2016, Netflix opened up its service to South Africans, making a lot of us streaming-geeks very happy campers. Needless to say they kicked off with a limited range (compared to US Netflix) but it is steadily growing.
The main limiting factor has been licensing, with other South African players owning the rights to certain titles in the area. We are pleased to see, though, that Netflix has not forgotten us, and they are constantly adding more and more titles to our SA viewing range. In fact, there are new titles added every week in both series and movies. We also enjoy the famed “Netflix Originals”, a range of binge-worthy series produced exclusively for Netflix.
However, Netflix was not quite fast enough in getting to South Africa to fully monopolize the market. South Africans being who we are in terms of our “make a plan” mentality, we welcomed Showmax, just a few months before Netflix hit the scene here.
Showmax was launched in South Africa in August 2015. Although they lack many of Netflix’s sought after titles, they do carry others that we want just as much.
Like Netflix, you will have to wait a few months before you get the latest seasons of your favorite series. For many series that have already come to an end on TV, you can go back and watch every episode from the pilot to the end. And we have.
Showmax also carries several of the much sought after HBO titles (including Game of Thrones, True Blood, and more) and a variety of local Afrikaans movies and series that you just won’t find anywhere else.
Now the debate begins…
Netflix or Showmax?
Netflix has become so much a part of online life that the word “Netflix” is now commonly accepted as a verb in our modern culture (much like “Google”).
“What you doing tonight?”
“I’m a gonna Netflix and order in”
Or if you’re feeling both lazy and romantic, you might ask your BAE:
“Wanna Netflix and Chill?”
The long and short of it is, Netflix is big, and we like it.
They have also recently announced their intention to focus on the South African market and to bring us our billing in ZAR, which would end the fluctuations in price that we currently experience thanks to the exchange rate.
We prefer the Netflix user interface, as it’s easier to navigate, search, and skip back and forth between episodes. The user profiles also allow parents to set age restrictions and make it easy for kids to stay in a child friendly space.
As with all tech, though, user interface becomes a matter of personal preference, and there are those who prefer the Showmax interface. Often it comes down to what you are used to.
On the Showmax side of the fence, there is content from HBO, Afrikaans movies and series and a shweet collection of Oscar award winning movies. Showmax sometimes brings in higher-end content for a limited time, and then let you know when they will be removing a title soon.
Needless to say there is a lot of content cross-over between the two sites.
Showmax also offers users the option to download a title onto your mobile device to watch later, a big bonus in a country where data isn’t always available when you step away from your home.
In addition, Showmax lets you choose to use data saving mode for when you are travelling and using limited mobile data.
Cost and Screen Limits
Showmax allows you to watch on two screens at once, with up to five devices registered at a time. They only carry one package and it’s all in HD. You do have a limited number of device changes, though, so be careful of logging in from too many different places.
Showmax has a flat rate of R99 per month (HD).
Netflix allows you to view on one screen at a time on their standard package. You can upgrade to include more screens, and to include HD viewing, at an additional cost. You don’t have to register your devices though, as long as you have your login details, you can watch from anywhere.
Netflix rates are as follows (as of November 2017):
1 screen: $7.99 (standard viewing)
2 screens: $9.99 (HD available)
4 screens: $11.99 (Ultra HD available)
At the end of the day it really all comes down to personal preference.
The best bet is to check out both and choose for yourself.
Netflix offers a one month free trial period, with no obligation to sign up.
Showmax offers two weeks of free viewing, which you can cancel at the end if you decide it’s not for you.
Hopefully at the end of your free trials you will be able to compare and make a choice.
Be warned though, some of us got attached and now subscribe to both! Even so, the total cost of both services together still works out to around R200 – R250 a month (depending on that exchange rate).
Other online streaming options in SA
If you are looking for more recent titles, you will have to dig a little deeper than these two streaming giants. Here again, your options become a bit limited if you want to keep your online activities above board and acceptable in the eyes of the South African authorities.
There’s Google Movies, where you can choose between renting or buying a title, but like the good old fashioned DVD store, you are going to wait a while for it to become available.
You can also turn to the likes of JustWatch, who help you find titles from various movie streaming channels, at an on demand price.
There is good old YouTube, who now have various streams and user generated channels providing full length movies and series. The availability is uncertain, though. Because anyone can upload to YouTube, the content you find isn’t always there legally and stuff gets taken down. The long and short of it: Just because you watched it today doesn’t mean it will be available tomorrow.
If it’s sport and news you’re after you may be interested in the newly unveiled DEOD, a new contender in SA who are focused on bringing a limited content offering to a broad Southern African market. We are keeping an eye on these guys. They are starting off small, and it’s too early to tell which way they’ll go.
Last of all there are the other new kids on the block, Amazon Prime Video. They are very new, and in terms of titles they are not carrying that many, yet.
Like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video will carry its own collection of in-house titles.
It will take a bit of time for them to grow their South African following, and offering. For the early adopters you may want to jump right in there. For the rest of us, we are going to wait and see what they bring to the table in the next couple of months before we make a commitment.
Whoever you choose, we hope have fun with your binge watching!
Webafrica ♥ Streaming
The best news is Webafrica loves binge watching streamed movies and series as much as you do, so we make sure that your (legally) subscribed streaming sites always get good bandwidth.
We will never choke your Netflix or Showmax connections, because we know how much they mean to you.