Despite being priced similarly to services like Netflix and Showmax, recently-launched streaming platform TelkomONE offers limited content and functionality in comparison.
Officially announced on Monday, the streaming service realises a five-year partnership between Telkom and the SABC to provide the latter’s content via a standalone streaming platform.
This includes all of the SABC TV channels and radio stations, as well as on-demand episodes of some of its most popular programming.
Overall, the service offers the following content:
- 20+ live TV channels
- 22 radio channels
- 30 music channels
- Numerous on-demand TV shows and music videos
Customers can browse the catalogue and register for free to access a limited content catalogue that has a mixture of news, inspiration, and entertainment channels or subscribe to one of Telkom’s AMP subscription packages that include music, short films, TV series, and the free content.
AMP bundles are offered in the following options:
- Daily – R7 per day including 90MB Telkom streaming data
- Weekend – R17 including 360MB Telkom streaming data
- Weekly – R19 including 720MB Telkom streaming data
- Monthly – R49 per month including 1.8GB Telkom streaming data
To see what type of value for money users could get out of TelkomONE, we signed up to the service to get an overview of its library and features.
We soon found, however, that the streaming service has a number of problems when it comes to its software interface, hardware compatibility, and content catalogue.
Sign-up process and initial impressions
Telkom said the platform would be available in an app, but this was not yet the case when we conducted our hands-on test run.
We therefore signed up on the telkomone.tv website in a desktop-based browser, which turned out to be a simple and quick process.
We needed to enter a Telkom phone number and create a password for a TelkomONE account.
After following the necessary OTP confirmation process, our account was created and we were directed to the service’s home page.
At the top of the page were several tabs – Home, Free, AMP, Competition, Subscribe, and About – in addition to a My Account option for managing profiles and settings.
Reminiscent of Showmax’s layout, content was organised into a number of categories, including:
- New on TelkomONE
- Best TV of the Week
- AMP Top 20
- Sensational Series
- Celebrity Entertainment
- Comedy Corner
- News of the World
We were unable to successfully log in to our account on a mobile browser on three different smartphones – including the device which contained the relevant Telkom SIM.
We proceeded to use the desktop app, but this is a significant hurdle, as it is likely the majority of TelkomONE’s users will want to access the service via a smartphone or tablet.
To get a full picture of the entire TelkomONE offering, we decided to buy a daily R7 AMP package to access all of the content.
Although Telkom indicated subscribers have the option of paying for these using their prepaid airtime, we could not find the option to use this as a payment method.
Alternative options were to pay with a voucher, credit card or to add the amount onto a postpaid bill.
We opted to use our credit card option, which allowed us to pay with Zapper.
After successfully completing the payment, we had instant access to the paid-for shows.
Sparse and obscure content
Aside from the live TV channels and radio stations, the content selection on TelkomONE was extremely limited.
Excluding the more popular SABC titles, there were barely any TV shows or movies that could be described as mainstream offerings.
The catalogue included a few local Comedy Central stand-up sets and roasts, as well as a number of BET and MTV reality TV shows.
Even when it came to the SABC’s own soaps – like Skeem Saam, Muvhango, Generations: The Legacy, and 7de Laan – the number of episodes available to view was very low.
In most cases, only the last five episodes of the current season were on offer.
Although music selection was extensive in terms of local talent, it primarily consisted of dispersed tracks from the same albums.
This meant we had to exit each playback window to listen to another song from the same album, which was a very cumbersome and unintuitive experience.
The 24/7 news channels were a welcome addition, however, with BBC World News, Al Jazeera, Euronews, Russia Today, and TRT World being a few of the well-known options.
Below is an overview of what the Home screen and its categories looked like.
Playback and navigation
When it came to playback, this required a bit more effort than on platforms like Netflix and Showmax.
First off, instead of jumping right into a show or movie after selection from the home page or within individual catalogues, the user has to click on another Play button on the next page for the video player to start.
For shows with multiple episodes, this would often require navigating through an additional page.
The structuring of listed shows and navigation was very bare-bones, with static thumbnails not really differentiating between episodes.
Although we had some issues streaming music videos, the other content buffered easily and while it would initially begin streaming in very low quality, less than 10 seconds later the image quality appeared to be at its peak option.
On-demand episodes of SABC soapies like 7de Laan, Muvhango, and Generations still included ads at the start and throughout the episodes, giving the appearance of being simple PVR recordings.
However, this could be skipped through by navigating the timeline, and to its credit, Telkom has also included playback speed controls.
There was no option to skip to the previous or next episode in a series, however, even when adding shows or tracks to a user-created playlist.
While it was possible to pause Live TV channels, attempting to rewind or go back to a previously-played section would only revert back to the current live state.
The majority of the local content offered a maximum Standard Definition (SD) streaming resolution of 1,024 x 768, while several of the international TV shows – including Light as a Feather and Confess – were available in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080).
Various other problems
In addition to the numerous issues experienced above, we also encountered the following glitches/oversights:
- Naming of episode titles lacked proper grammar and details as to episode and season numbers.
- Episode descriptions lacked detail and often only used an overall synopsis for the entire series.
- Certain links lead to the wrong shows, eg one episode of Wild Earth Safari Live opened into a recorded SABC Sports show.
- Duplicate entries were created for the same episodes, such as in the case of MTV’s Lasizwe. Only one of the two is playable, however.
- The aspect ratio on BBC World News was also problematic, and appeared to stretch the image horizontally. There was no way to adjust this.
The images below show several of the issues as detailed above.
Although the free tier’s inclusion of SABC TV channels, radio stations, and a number of news channels could be of value to South Africans, the value proposition of the monthly AMP package makes for a hard sell when compared with other streaming services.
For the same R49 per month, you could subscribe to Showmax Mobile, or if you are one of the lucky early testers, a Netflix Mobile plan.
Both these services offer far more content than TelkomONE, and the former also offers a wider selection of local content with higher production value.
This is an opinion piece.