Armed with a fast broadband connection and a large monitor, South Africans do not need a TV licence or DStv subscription to watch premium video content.
On-demand streaming video services such as Netflix, Prime Video, Showmax, Apple TV+, and Britbox offer alternatives to linear broadcast services like DStv.
Big-screen monitors provide an alternative to traditional TV sets that you need a TV licence to buy in South Africa.
By choosing streaming over satellite TV, and a monitor over a television set, South Africans can avoid the need for a TV licence and select cheaper alternatives to DStv Premium.
MultiChoice reported that, between April 2020 and March 2021, it saw an 8% decline in subscribers to its high-end DStv Premium and Compact Plus packages.
This is a continuation of a trend that started in 2016 when Netflix launched globally.
Initially, the launch of Netflix only caused a slow-down in DStv Premium subscriber growth, but by 2018 MultiChoice revealed that its most profitable subscriber base was shrinking.
This has not stopped MultiChoice from making money. On the contrary, the company posted record profits for the 2020/21 financial year.
Profits notwithstanding, subscriber numbers on high-end DStv packages are shrinking as people can get fast, uncapped fibre broadband and several streaming services for cheaper than a DStv Premium subscription.
The table below summarises the top streaming services currently available in South Africa.
Not shown in the table are services such as YouTube Premium and Curiosity Stream.
|Video streaming services|
|Netflix Standard||3,544 movies
1,981 TV shows
|Amazon Prime Video||6,834 movies
1,067 TV shows
556 TV shows
|Apple TV+||24 movies
Walt Disney recently announced that it would launch Disney+ in South Africa during winter next year. No price or exact or launch date was confirmed.
In addition to the subscription services listed above, streaming video viewers also have access to catalogues of free content, with TelkomONE featuring the SABC’s content and E-tv recently launching eVOD.
South Africans have limited options when it comes to live sports streaming that do not require circumventing geographic restrictions, which may be illegal in South Africa.
MultiChoice offers sports streaming through Showmax Pro — available through a mobile plan for R225 per month or the standard plan for R449 per month.
It also offers streaming-only DStv subscriptions that include live streaming of many of its channels, including SuperSport.
While these subscriptions are priced the same as DStv’s satellite TV packages, viewers can avoid requiring a TV licence by going decoder-less.
To avoid needing a TV licence it is also necessary to use a monitor that does not include a TV tuner, rather than a conventional television set.
Four models of 40-inch or larger ultra-high-definition monitors that are available in South Africa are listed below.
Philips 43″ 438P1/96 — R8,999
Mecer 55″ 55L83U with built-in media player — R9,990
Mecer 65″ W/6586ad — R13,739