The long-awaited day has arrived – now pick one: Netflix vs. ShowMax

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Well that took freaking long enough. Netflix, in case you’ve been under a rock for the last 24 hours, expanded their service pretty much globally late yesterday and South Africa is one of those destinations. Superficially it means that there’s no more need to muck around with American VPNs and spoofing your IP to enjoy the streaming service so beloved of the States and UK. Or is there?

There are loads of streaming services available in South Africa all of a sudden but there’s really only one that offers enough content to stand toe-to-toe with Netflix’s brand new local offering. The question is: Is international clout enough to push ShowMax back into the shadows? Let’s find out, shall we? Some head-to-head sounds like fun.

At What Cost?

ShowMaxIf you’re looking to choose a streaming service based purely on cost, we’re afraid that ShowMax is the clear winner. Why? A flat rate for their content of R99 per month.

Netflix can’t really compete on that metric yet as you’ll be paying at least R128 ($7.99) for an SD subscription to the service. You’ll only be able to use Netflix on one device at this price point. Shell out R195 per month ($11.99) and you’ll finally be able to use that UHD TV of yours while three other plebs watch their own shows on tablets or something. Or you can opt for the middle tier and pay R161 for HD content and two simultaneous users.

The winner – ShowMax (told you)

Where’s Kevin Spacey?

Kevin-Spacey-House-of-Cards-NetflixWe’ve taken a peek at what Netflix South Africa offers and we have to say… we’re impressed that the Netflix Originals are finally legally available here. But if you were to combine the content offered by other streaming services in SA, there’d be a lot of overlap with what else Netflix can provide locally.

You can watch Suits on Netflix South Africa, or on ShowMax (or on VU – see below). You can watch Breaking Bad on ShowMax but not on Netflix SA. And you also won’t find Netflix’s own House of Cards or Orange is the New Black on Netflix. DStv owns the rights to those shows in this country for the moment. Also: No The Walking Dead for Netflix SA. Aw…

The local rollout, as anticipated as it has been, is rather sparse when it comes to shows and most of what is available is either so old that you’d have to be playing some serious catch-up to want to watch (That 70s Show) or are Netflix’s own creations. Which, while awesome, are hardly a massive catalogue at present.

The reality is that ShowMax has more for viewers to watch, at least at this stage of Neflix’s launch.

The winner – ShowMax (again)

Local Netflix Is Better Somewhere, Right?

Netflix 1HeaderAs a value proposition, it’s actually hard to recommend Netflix’s official South African release over ShowMax. And if you’re already using an American or UK Netflix setup at home, you might want to hang onto it just for the variety.

There just isn’t as much to watch on South Africa’s Netflix offering as there is on the American version or even on ShowMax at present. This might change as licensing agreements in the country alter but this can also shift in favour of ShowMax, DStv and others. If they license your favourite show for broadcast, it’ll probably be pulled from Netflix here at home, or vice versa. We’re waiting on some official word on that scenario, which should be coming through from DStv soon. We’ll have an update as soon as it does.

UPDATE: Multichoice has said that “As a result of our ongoing contracts with content providers, MultiChoice holds the rights to a number of series across the African continent including shows like House of Cards. Where we hold the rights, we will continue to screen these on DStv and offer it on our DStv Catch Up and DStv Now services.” Which doesn’t really tell us much but it does suggest that when DStv no longer holds the rights to certain shows, Netflix will become the default broadcaster.

And then there’s the fact that you can download items for later perusal using ShowMax. That’s a big tickbox for the South Africa service, at least if you’re using a phone or tablet, that Netflix just doesn’t have…

What we’re trying to say is that ShowMax has the edge for now, while DStv carries some of the other items that you’re not going to be able watch on the newly-launched streaming service – more or less making all three offerings essential if you’re a truly omnivorous (and perpetually hungry) viewer. Time will tell whether Netflix becomes a powerhouse in South Africa the way it has overseas, grinding the competition under its well-licensed heel. It could also go the other way, with local streaming offerings outdoing Netflix at its own game. We’re going to be long-term testing (by watching a lot of Netflix) see what happens there.

Other Streaming Alternatives

What else have we got? There’s Vidi, which has faded into the background of late. There’s also OnTapTV, another newcomer which features still different content to the others available now. And there’s also VU, if you’re okay with throwing money in MTN’s direction. But if you’d like to give Netflix’s 30-day trial a go, you can check out our announcement post for a quick how-to on the sign-up process. Your data cap is about to get a fright.

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