Most South Africans who want to watch new content on Disney+ will have no choice but to download it illegally.
Disney officially launched its own subscription-based video streaming platform in the US, Canada, and the Netherlands on 12 November 2019.
Subscribers in these countries are able to choose from an extensive collection of Disney movies and series, which include titles from popular franchises like Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm.
Coinciding with the launch of the new service, Disney released the first episode of its much-anticipated Star Wars series The Mandalorian.
Episodes of The Mandalorian are exclusive to Disney+ and won’t be available on any other broadcasting platform.
Since the company has announced no official plans to bring Disney+ to South Africa or the rest of Africa within the next two years, it is likely that fans in unsupported regions will take illegal measures to watch The Mandalorian and other popular shows.
At the time of writing, various torrent sites had already posted multiple links to the first episode of The Mandalorian, with thousands of active downloads.
VPN workaround for Apple users
Many users might consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to get Disney+ working in South Africa.
Streaming service libraries differ from region to region, based on their licensing agreements with the content owners.
Currently, users who want access to region-locked programming on supported streaming services side-step this obstacle by using a VPN to fake the location of their device.
In theory, a VPN could also allow South African users to stream content from Disney+.
Unfortunately, since a Disney+ account sign-up currently requires a credit card or bank account linked to one of the three countries in which it is available, this will not be enough.
A limited and complicated workaround does exist for Apple devices, however. Tech Advisor detailed how Apple users managed to stream Disney+ shows from the UK.
Users of iOS devices can reportedly created a US Apple ID and used a US Apple Store gift card to sign-up and pay for a Disney+ subscription.
Combining this subscription with a VPN that masks the user’s device as being located in the US, allowed them to use the Disney+ service.
Other Disney content
Disney previously announced that it would remove all of its live-action and animated content from Netflix by 1 January 2020.
Currently, South African broadcasters like DStv and other third-party video services are able to broadcast Disney-owned shows and movies thanks to content licensing agreements.
There is bad news for any new Disney+ content, however.
TV with Thinus spoke to sources at M-Net, which said that Disney+ content will not be available to buy in regions where Disney+ does not have a presence.
According to the insiders, M-Net continues to be able to buy content from the Hulu streaming service, in which Disney has majority ownership.
This includes shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, Catch-22, and The Runaways.
Disney+ exclusive shows like The Mandalorian, the Monsters Inc. animated series, the High School Musical series, and future titles are not expected to be available.
The increased availability of video-on-demand streaming and a fall in the cost of broadband Internet has led to more content consumers opting for legitimate services over dodgy illegal downloads and streaming sites.
Multiple ISPs in South Africa told MyBroadband that their data traffic on video streaming services like Netflix, Showmax, DStv Now, and YouTube far exceeds torrent activity.
Approaches like the one taken by Disney, however, could force South Africans to turn back to piracy.
South Africa is not the only market that will miss out on shows like The Mandalorian for the time being.
According to the Disney+ road map, the service will gradually roll out to other Western European markets in 2020, while South American and Eastern European launches are scheduled for 2021.
Customers outside of supported areas will be forced to either pirate The Mandalorian or wait for Disney+ to roll out in their region.
MyBroadband asked The Walt Disney Company Africa how South African Star Wars fans could watch The Mandalorian.
A representative said that the series was only available on the Disney+ service.
“All Disney+ originals are exclusive to the Disney+ service,” the company said. “At this point, we have no news regarding this service launch in Africa as of yet.”