Netflix vs DStv – can South Africans cut the cord?

After Netflix launched in South Africa, many people asked whether it was possible to ditch DStv in favour of the streaming service.

Comparing Netflix to pay-TV service DStv is a little like comparing a car to a commuter train, though.

A direct comparison isn’t fair, but you can weigh the benefits and weaknesses of each and determine which is best for you.

Here’s what you need to consider before you choose between satellite or broadband as your medium for video entertainment.

Subscription fees

DStv and Netflix monthly fees
Netflix DStv
Monthly subscription: R128 ($7.99) – R192 ($11.99) Monthly subscription: R319 – R779
  • Basic: R128 ($7.99)
    1 SD stream only
  • Standard: R160 ($9.99)
    2 HD streams
  • Premium: R192 ($11.99)
    4 HD/UHD streams
  • DStv Premium: R699
    ±130 TV channels, 20 HD
  • DStv Extra: R425
    ±100 TV channels, 5 HD
  • DStv Compact: R319
    ±85 TV channels
  • +optional Access Fee: R80
Exchange rate: R16 per $

DStv and Netflix both offer various subscription tiers.

Netflix differentiates on video quality. Regardless of which package you’re on, you get access to its entire region-specific catalogue.

DStv packages are categorised based on their features and the content they offer.

Comparing the number of channels on a DStv package to the number of titles available on Netflix isn’t useful – you rather have to look at the type of content available on each service.

Once-off and “infrastructure” costs must also be taken into account.

Infrastructure costs

DStv and Netflix monthly fees comparison
Netflix / broadband costs DStv dish + installation
Once off costs: R820 – R3,000
Recurring costs: R508+ per month
Once off costs: R799 – R3,500
Recurring costs: R0-R35 per month
  • Once-off installation: R620 – R1,412
    • Telkom line installation: R620
    • Telkom DSL installtion: R792 (self-install option available)
    • Wireless services attract similar install costs
  • Router: R200 – R1,500
  • Monthly recurring: R508 – R914
    • Telkom phone line rental: R180
    • Telkom DSL access: R165 – R515
    • 100GB Afrihost cap: R199
    • Telkom do Premium: R699 (all inclusive)
    • Fixed wireless is priced similarly, and fibre can offer greater value.
  • DStv decoder, dish, and installation (once-off): R799 – R3,500
    • DStv decoder: R499 (single-view HD) – R1,999 (Explora)
    • DStv dish and installation: R300 – R2,000 depending on dish size, XtraView, and installation quality.
  • DStv decoder insurance (optional): R20 – R35 per month

DStv requires the installation of a satellite dish and decoder set-top box, while Netflix requires an Internet connection with, roughly, at least 100GB of cap.

If you’ve got an HD Netflix subscription, it may be more realistic to budget for 200GB of cap.

Since your Internet connection isn’t used exclusively for Netflix, though, its cost aren’t always solely associated with streaming use.

The infrastructure costs summarised above are therefore split from the subscription fees.

Content selection

Netflix on laptop

To compare Netflix to DStv, one has to look at the type and variety of content available. One person’s essential viewing is another’s garbage.

Although the volume of titles available on each platform makes it difficult to do an item-by-item comparison, it is possible to address the benefits of each service.

To sports lovers, a DStv Premium subscription is valuable – thanks to its live sports offering.

Fans of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will love a Netflix subscription, thanks to shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage.

Netflix has also promised to bring a host of original content to South Africa during 2016.

DStv currently owns the exclusive rights to a number of TV shows, like Game of Thrones, Ray Donovan, and even Netflix’s shows House of Cards and Orange is the new Black.

Under its “Express from the US” programme, DStv offers new episodes shortly after they have premiered in the United States.

It is worth noting there are many TV series that don’t receive this treatment, leaving South Africans without a legal way to watch popular shows as they air overseas.

Another consideration is that “Express from the US” is only available on a handful of shows that air on M-Net and M-Net Edge – channels only available on DStv Premium.

Although there are hit shows that air first on channels like Vuzu, which has Arrow and The Flash, and is available on DStv Compact, Extra, and Premium, these can air weeks or even months after they have shown in the US.

Key pieces still missing for cord-cutters

Hulu unavailable in your region, can only be watched from within the United States

The arrival of Netflix in SA brings an increase in competition to the country’s video entertainment sector, but cord cutting will not be a viable option for many viewers.

A key service missing in South Africa is something like Hulu, which streams shows from a number of networks as they air in the US.

Hulu is not available outside the US, with local access only available by circumventing its geographic blocking tech.

Lawyers have warned that this is in contravention of Hulu’s terms and conditions, and potentially copyright infringement.

MultiChoice also holds the trump card: SuperSport.

Unless they give up live sports, sports lovers will not be able to drop their DStv subscription for a service like Netflix.

If none of the deal-breakers listed above concern you – live sports and getting top shows as they air in the US – then Netflix alone may be enough for you.

You might have to supplement your Netflix subscription with a competing service such as VU, Vidi, ShowMax, or OntapTV – but even paying for two streaming services is cheaper than DStv Premium.

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Netflix vs DStv – can South Africans cut the cord?