Just about every parent in South Africa has asked their adolescent children how the youngsters cope without the magic of satellite television. Once the folks find out how cheap Netflix and Showmax actually are, though, they tend to immediately get on board. But how do you make the change from broadcast to streaming? Step one: Cancel your DStv account.
Why drop the DStv account, though? What did they ever do to us? Well, DStv has come under fire for continuously repeating old shows and not living up the expectations generated by what users pay each month (up to R790 per month, in the case of DStv Premium). Which is a reasonable thing to take to their Facebook wall about. The main reason people stay with DStv is sport. It’s locked down the rights to most quality sporting events. But, if you’re not a sports fan, it might seem worthwhile to make the transition to Netflix, which is only around R140 per month for an HD-capable account, rising to just under R200 if you want to stream in 4K. Or if you don’t mind the idea of giving DStv cash, you can opt for Showmax for just R100 per month. Either makes sense from a budget perspective.
Ditching the D(Stv) for some Netflix or Showmax is a simple process, and we’re here to guide you on the road to becoming one with your home entertainment. There are a few boxes you need ticked before you can start disconnecting from the tyranny of endless re-runs.
First and foremost you will need an internet connection of some sort – preferably uncapped. This could take the shape of a dongle from your favourite service provider, an LTE-A modem and account, or ADSL, VDSL or a fibre connection. If you are a frequent Stuff reader we suspect you’ve already got one or more of the above.
If you opt for fixed line installation, be sure to get your ISP (internet service provider) involved early on so you don’t sit with a working line but no data on it. The monthly costs will vary depending on the provider’s fees and line speeds. If you plan to download endlessly and stream 4K movies on 20 devices (actually, Netflix will let you have a max of four at once) it would be advisable to secure a 100Mbps uncapped fibre line, though you can get away with 20Mbps. But… because that is the exception in SA, anything above 4Mbps should be fine for HD.
This process sounds intimidating, but one call to a decent ISP should get you sorted as most will deal with the installation for you. They want your business, see? You’ll likely have to pay an installation fee, but this once off. And if it’s for fibre, many ISPs will foot the bill for installing your connection and give you a router if you agree to stay with them for six months or a year.
Acquire a box of some sort. Not cardboard
Here’s where you need to make a choice, because there are nearly endless options when it comes to choosing a streaming device. You do not necessarily need a set-top box. You can get away with a smart TV, laptop, desktop PC, PlayStation 3 or 4, or an Xbox 360 or Xbox One. Heck, even a smartphone or tablet is workable with the right setup, plus then you can download items for offline viewing.
On any of these devices, you should be able to install your preferred VOD (video-on-demand) app (Netflix, Showmax, Amazon Prime), and stream seamlessly via your newly acquired internet. But, if you do not have one of these devices, or you are looking for something more DStv-esque to help with the transition you can opt for a set-top box.
A set-top box is like a mini-PC with its own operating system. A box which can be plugged into any TV that has an HDMI-port. They are normally controlled using a remote and there’s a massive range of different boxes available on the market including the Kwesé Play, Apple TV, any Android TV Box, Kodi, the blackBOX, and others.
Prices on the boxes vary depending on the brand and what it offers. The Kwesé Play will empty your pocket of R1,000, the Apple 4K 64GB TV will cost you R3,480, and the MXQ Android 6.0 Smart TV Box goes for about R600. It all depends on your budget, but keep in mind that this is a once-off fee to acquire the hardware, and once it is installed it won’t have any running costs. Unless you pour coffee over it.
Do the paperwork
All that’s left is to sign up for the streaming services you would like to use. The most popular of these is Netflix, which offers thousands of shows to choose from with new shows being added frequently. This includes series (including older shows and some of the newest to hit US screens), as well as movies and documentaries and will only cost between R90 and R190 monthly, depending on your chosen package and the exchange rate of rand to US dollar.
Next there is Showmax, which is a local VOD service which includes old SABC favourites, locally produced movies and also pretty much everything you cannot find on Netflix. And a few things you can. This service works out to R100 a month and new shows are also constantly being added. Though… Netflix seems to have a bit of a volume advantage of late.
There’s also Amazon Prime Video to consider, which is now home to Jeremy Clarkson and company’s The Grand Tour and other quality original shows like The Man in High Castle. But, be warned, Amazon Prime Video will tease you with lots of shows and movies that “aren’t available in your region”, like the music documentary about Amy Winehouse, called Amy.
With certain devices like the Kwesé Play you will receive three months’ free Netflix subscription upon purchase, which gives you time to decide whether you would like to sign up for the paid service after the trial. Payment for pretty much everything can be taken care of with a credit card, though you can also use Showmax vouchers to fuel your TV addiction.
If you are ready for all of the so-called ‘paperwork’, the Kwesé Play offers a whole range of channels when you purchase the device, many of which are free. There is a reason for that. The Apple TV also has more than one streaming option built in, including Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, ESPN, and Netflix. The options are up to you and you actually have the chance to personalise your viewing options, unlike DStv. Though, we’ll admit, Catch-Up is pretty great.
What about sports?
This is the question everyone asks when the decision to cancel their DStv subscription turns up — especially Oom Fanie from across the street. Where will he watch the Lions vs. Sharks match this weekend? And this is the reason many people don’t end up cancelling their satellite TV subscription.
SuperSport has a contract with DStv. It’s the only place you can go to watch local sport, so if you are a die hard sports fan you will need to go to the pub to watch anything local. Alternatively, there are streaming services (like Mobdro Freemium) that make international games available. This app lets you stream live sports channels including ESPN, Fox Sports, Sky Sports, BT Sports, NBA TV and Eurosport for free. Provided they’re being provided for free, that is. It doesn’t manage the streams themselves, just collects them in one place so expect a little… variation.
You won’t get to see Kobus Wiese’s face but at least you’ll have access to some of the world’s leading sport channels… and also get out of the house every Saturday for a braai at your buddy’s place to watch the rugby.
Be a free man (or woman)
If this is something you really are interested in, but you are the type who doesn’t like to take advice from an article, or who starts getting a heavy chest when you hear acronyms like HDMI, VOD, ADSL, and R2-D2, don’t fret. There is help out there.
It is fine to prefer going to the nearest HiFi Corp and speaking to an actual human being. You will find most of the physical devices you need at these and similar stores and the sales folks will be able to talk you through an installation. They might even help you find someone to set it up for you.
The reality is that not everyone will decide to cancel their DStv accounts and that is fine. You don’t have to, because you can also watch Showmax for free on your DStv Premium account, which will give you access to content which can be watched at any time — which is a plus. It comes down to whether you reckon you can afford a streaming service and a satellite TV description at the same time. Either way…
You are now a free man (or woman). The savings on the switch will not be astronomical, because you will still pay for your internet use and the monthly subscriptions you have, but you will have full control over what you watch and when you watch it. It all depends on you, because now you have multi(ple) choice(s).