Finally, South Africans have more choice when it comes to television content. For many years, the pay-TV market was dominated by Multichoice’s offerings, including the well-known DStv. But its time may be short. The broadcaster will reportedly lose R3 billion in South Africa over the next 5 years
The linear broadcaster is currently one of the most expensive options in South Africa, but its monopoly is fading. We’re here to tell you there are other options. In many cases, these options are cheaper.
At this point names like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Hulu, and Disney+ shouldn’t sound foreign to anyone reading this. Video-on-demand and streaming services have become the norm across the world. Many children grow up without the need for TV guides and with no knowledge of in-channel adverts. Lucky buggers.
Getting yourself connected to the web isn’t as challenging as it was just three or four years ago in South Africa. Fibre ISPs dominate the market, and mobile operators offer affordable LTE internet options.
Once you’re linked to the web, accessing streaming services is as easy as having a suitable device and signing up for a free trial. Let’s get into it.
Beam me up, Stuffy
First and foremost you will need an internet connection of some sort – preferably uncapped. This could take the shape of a mobile router from your favourite service provider, or an ADSL, VDSL, or 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 so you don’t sit with a working line but no data on it. Monthly costs will vary depending on the provider’s fees and line speeds.
If you plan to download endlessly and stream 4K movies to four devices it would be advisable to secure a 50Mbps uncapped fibre line, though you can get away with 20Mbps. Because this 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. Most will deal with the installation for you. They want your business, see? You’ll likely pay an installation fee, but this is a 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.
Your other option is an LTE connection, and there are many new players in the market, including… you guessed it… DStv. The broadcaster launched its own LTE internet offering in 2021, which starts from R230p/m for 25GB of data. Standard Bank also recently joined the game, offering 30GB/m for R260p/m.
Get set up with streaming hardware
Lucky for us, most smartphones available today are capable of streaming content from any of the streaming services available in South Africa. In addition, you can access most of these services via a browser on a laptop, PC, MacBook, iPad, gaming console, or Android tablet.
But if you’re from the generation that prefers to assemble around the TV for social sessions, there are a few options, even if you don’t have the cash to invest in a smart TV.
For some clarity: smart TVs offer the capability to download and install apps on the TV itself — almost as if it’s a large, horizontal smartphone. But not everyone has the option to invest a wad of cash in one. And many people are still attached to their old PC monitors. In this case, you’ll look into a media box.
Media boxes go by several names, including streaming box, set-top box, streamer, and Android TV box. Sometimes they are shaped like boxes, but they’ve become smaller and more compact in recent years. They typically come with a remote control, otherwise, they may be controlled using a smartphone.
The top five media devices Stuff recommends are:
- Xiaomi Mi Box S | R1,200
- Google Chromecast 3.0 | R900
- Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K | R1,300
- Apple TV 4K | R3,700
- Mediabox Maverick | R1,600
As with most gadgets, the more you pay, the better the quality of the device tends to be. But we can confirm that some cheaper Android-based TV boxes, like the Xiaomi Mi Box S and Mediabox Maverick, will work just as well as a much more expensive Apple TV. The only difference? You’re not in the Apple ecosystem.
The Google Chromecast doesn’t function using a remote control – instead, you connect it with your phone and cast what’s on your phones’ screen to the TV. It’s somewhat more limited in features – hence the price tag – but you’ll get decent functionality from it. Particularly if you’re equipped with an Android phone.
There are always pros and cons
DStv has simply become too expensive for most middle-to-lower-class users. A Premium subscription costs R830p/m. This gives the viewer access to 135+ channels, DStv Box Office and Showmax, across up to four devices.
Most households add an internet connection cost on top of that, including the cost of other streaming services – which stacks up. At the end of the month, you’re paying thousands to keep DStv on the list. Sometimes, however, this is mainly for its partnership with SuperSport.
Until recently DStv has been the only service to broadcast local and international sports. Showmax (which is also owned by Multichoice) recently onboarded certain sports channels. This allows for a much easier switch process. The Showmax offering that includes live sports, however, is called Showmax Pro and costs a whopping R450p/m anyway.
Dropping DStv may be the best decision you ever make. Depending on your TV needs, of course. If you’re all about that Netflix hype, it’s completely worth investing in a decent internet connection, and opting for a few key streaming services. Just be cognizant of signing up for too many streaming services – because that could cost just as much as a DStv sub. Without the endless reruns, of course.