ShowMax: the Naspers Netflix competitor tested

ShowMax has launched in South Africa, going up against Vidi, MTN FrontRow, and Netflix with a subscription video on demand service that costs R99 per month.

A free tier it calls ShowMax Basic is also available, which offers a small subset of the series available on the platform – including kids programming and local TV shows.

It also offers a 7-day trial of ShowMax Premium, allowing subscribers to check out the service before deciding to sign up.

With the service now live, we decided to take it for a spin – putting ShowMax through its paces on a 2012 model Samsung smart TV, and on PC and Mac.

ShowMax Samsung smart TV app

ShowMax on 2012 Samsung smart TV - main screen
ShowMax on 2012 Samsung smart TV – main screen

We tested the ShowMax smart TV app using a 6Mbps uncapped broadband connection supplied by a local wireless service provider.

Shows tested included The Musketeers, The Newsroom, and Game of Thrones.

Videos started quickly, picture quality was good, and it appeared as though the content delivered at the full 720p available – without any buffering.

The app was responsive and well laid out. Movies and series are separated into their own categories, from where you can then further filter by genre.

You can also browse by section, of which the following were available at launch: Hollywood, Best of British, kykNET, Mzansi, and Kids.

ShowMax web app

ShowMax web app in Chrome
ShowMax web app in Chrome

Testing the ShowMax website in Safari revealed that not only did it need Flash player from Adobe, it also needed the Widevine plugin from Google.

This is where the minimum requirements for ShowMax seem to come from: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari are supported on Windows 7 or later, and OS X 10.6 or later.

Widevine’s website states that, at this time, there is no plugin available for Linux, ChromeOS, or Opera.

I prefer not to run Flash on my Mac, so we switched the test from Safari to Chrome, where streaming worked like a charm as soon as the Widevine plugin was installed.

The ShowMax web app was responsive and well designed, and videos starting playing quickly on the 10Mbps ADSL connection we tested on.

Telkom Internet’s ADSL account was used for this test.

We also tested streaming to two devices simultaneously from the same ShowMax Premium account, and it worked as advertised.

Bottom-line: Great service, at a competitive price

ShowMax on 2012 Samsung smart TV - login screen
ShowMax on 2012 Samsung smart TV – login screen

One aspect of the service that doesn’t seem to have been ironed out at launch is the ability to register up to five devices on a single account.

While ShowMax allowed us to add two devices and stream to them at the same time, it would not let us add more than that.

Fortunately, deleting devices from your profile is easy, but we could see why you would want to register up to five devices and then have the ability to stream to two of them at the same time.

Other than that, ShowMax worked brilliantly on all the devices we tested, and its has made a future paying customer out of me… for now.

ShowMax runs everywhere I need it to (though a PlayStation 4 app would be great), and at R99 per month it’s quite reasonable for the content you can access.

However, what happens when Netflix officially enters the local market remains to be seen. ShowMax has its work cut out when it goes up against not only Netflix’s content catalogue, but also its original shows.

With series such as House of Cards, Sense8, and Orange is the New Black – as well as those from Marvel’s franchises like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist – Netflix promises to be a strong competitor.

And for the South African VOD subscriber, that is a great thing.

ShowMax Widevine plugin notice
ShowMax Widevine plugin notice
ShowMax exceed maximum number of devices
ShowMax exceed maximum number of devices
ShowMax on 2012 Samsung smart TV - Hollywood show selection screen
ShowMax on 2012 Samsung smart TV – Hollywood show selection screen
ShowMax on 2012 Samsung smart TV - Hollywood show selection screen
ShowMax on 2012 Samsung smart TV – Hollywood show selection screen
ShowMax on 2012 Samsung smart TV - Hollywood show selection screen
ShowMax on 2012 Samsung smart TV – Hollywood show selection screen

Review disclaimer: ShowMax provided media with a 60-day trial account. This test therefore excludes the step where you provide payment details to access the 7-day trial of ShowMax Premium.

More on ShowMax and Netflix

ShowMax: we’re better than Netflix

ShowMax: broadband requirements, pricing, and supported devices

TV series on ShowMax for SA revealed

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ShowMax: the Naspers Netflix competitor tested