If things were any more magical, we’d be Disney princesses. Disney+, the streaming service for people with a love for traumatising animation (and Marvel movies), lands in South Africa soon. In just over six weeks, give or take an eternity, it’ll be possible to subscribe to the mighty mouse’s video content.
It’s the most exciting launch since Netflix first launched in South Africa. But, unlike the Netflix launch, there are far more options on the market to distract you. Showmax has secured access to some of Disney’s content (for a while). Netflix has a mobile-only plan available. Disney+, believe it or not, has some competition on its hands.
Is it worth dropping an extra R120/m for yet another streaming service come 18 May? That’s the question we’re about to answer for you.
In the purple corner, it’s Disney+
The newcomer with everything to prove — in terms of usability and value, rather than available content. The Walt Disney Company owns… it owns a lot of properties, guys. The major Disney+ drawcard, for geeks, is unlimited access to Star Wars — cartoons, series, films both classic and future. There’s also Marvel content. ALL the Marvel content, without resorting to an eyepatch on broadcast day, in the case of series’. Then there’s Disney animation classics, The Simpsons, National Geographic content… If you use your streaming service as a babysitter for the young ‘uns, the strong family focus here means you’ll want to have your credit card details are on speed-dial.
In terms of value, you’re expected to pay R120/m for digital access to the happiest place on Earth. The annual subscription (R1,190) lets you take two months off the price tag. You save R240 a year this way, which might be handy when it comes to filling your petrol tank. For your money, you get access to seven user accounts, four concurrent streams, and downloads on up to ten different devices. Arbitrary numbers, but we’re fine with this.
In the yellow corner, it’s Prime Video
Brother Jeff’s video service, Amazon Prime Video, is available in the good old Republic of South Africa. It boasts a number of Amazon Originals. These aren’t quite as numerous or varied as Netflix offers, but they tend to be a little better curated. Plus, you get Jeremy Clarkson on a tractor as well as in fast cars.
In terms of money, this will cost you R80/m. You’re getting fewer concurrent streams (three), and you can only stream the same content to two devices at the same time. This is a strange feature to include, but sure. Downloads are temporary and the two-device limit is also in effect. You can’t download the same movie or series to more than two supported devices at once.
In the blue(ish) corner, it’s Netflix
The 400kg gorilla in the bedroom is Netflix. The streaming giant has enough money to throw at every country it is available in, meaning there’s a constant stream of original content filtering down. But this shotgun approach is a little unstable. You never really know what you’re about to get from less high-profile presentations. But every so often, you encounter a Tiger King or Inventing Anna, or Daredevil (which will continue life on Disney+, hopefully). Third-party content has taken a knock in recent years because everyone’s starting up their own competing services.
There are four price points available in South Africa. Mobile (R50/m) and Basic (R100/m) both offer users a single concurrent stream with a Standard Definition maximum resolution. Up that to Standard (R160/m) and you get two streams and HD. Pay R200/m and you get four concurrent streams and up to 4K video resolution. Downloads are extensive, with up to 100 active files across up to four devices. The latter is connected to your package.
In the green corner, it’s Showmax
If it’s on DStv, then it’s probably on Showmax. Expect to find near-exclusive access to HBO and Hulu content in South Africa, plus an eclectic collection of movies and series. If you’re after a shotgun approach to your video content, then this and Netflix used to be the de facto combination in South Africa. It’s a good spread and (mostly) hits the target dead-centre. But it’s local, and parent company Multichoice is doing unpleasant things with DStv streaming at the moment.
Showmax isn’t really affected here, though. Showmax Mobile (R40/m) offers a single concurrent stream and is capped at SD. Standard Showmax (R100/m) is the value proposition — a max resolution of Standard Definition and two concurrent streams. Showmax Mobile Pro (R225/m) and Showmax Pro (R450/m) both offer two streams at once with a maximum resolution of 720p. Downloads are possible, for some content, but this isn’t the best option for those with 4K TVs. Or people with eyes.
In the red corner, it’s Apple TV+
Apple TV+ might have just secured an Oscar for Best Picture but the service isn’t known to have a massive amount of content. The stuff that’s there is generally fantastic (See Ted Lasso) but some of it is a little less impressive. The service is heavily America-centric, which is what happens when all of your production takes place in a single country (plus Canada).
But at R85/m, it’s not terribly expensive to secure. And since Apple isn’t shy about concurrent streams (up to 6 at once), except if you secured your access via an Apple Music student subscription. If you’re a poor student, you get one stream. One. But streaming quality is up to 4K, which is nice.
And the rest of the contenders
There are more than just the big names on the market. BritBox offers users six concurrent streams for R100/m. YouTube Premium allows playing videos in the background (on mobile) and removes all ads (like AdBlock Plus doesn’t do that for free) for $12 a month. It offers up to ten concurrent streams, and there’s no denying there’s a massive amount of content available. Most of it is a little… iffy, though. Vodacom’s Video Play gets you two streams at R100/m. Crunchyroll gets you anime madness at $10 a month. TelkomOne has a variety of options with up to two streams at once. But odds are, if you’re asked to choose between Disney+ or these and the other minor services still left floating around out there, the Mouse is going to win. Unless there’s a really, really compelling reason for your specialist sub, like the next season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (which is on Netflix anyway).
Is Disney+ worth it?
If you’re any kind of animation fan, Disney+ is a day one subscription. Ditto if you can’t get enough of superhero action and are thinking of catching up on those TV series’ you definitely haven’t found a way to watch yet. Double ditto if you’ve got kids. You probably won’t find a more child-friendly service anywhere else on the planet. Disney is famous for being appropriate for families. Even if you’re not part of this very specific subset or the one that includes Star Wars, you’ll probably still find at least something in Disney+’s wide-reaching roster that will agree with you.
Is it enough to make you discard another service on the list? That depends. It’s possible you might jettison Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, or one of the less well-padded services in order to get your Disney fix. It probably won’t become your main streaming go-to, unless you own a pair of mouse ears you wear in the house alone on the weekends.