South African streaming battle — Showmax vs eVOD vs SABC+

South Africans have a plethora of home-grown video streaming services to choose from, and three major ones carry most of the content that enjoys some widespread appeal.

These streaming services are eVOD, SABC+, and Showmax, each owned by one of the country’s leading television broadcasters.

MultiChoice’s Showmax video streaming service is one of the oldest on-demand streaming services available to South Africans.

It launched in August 2015, a year before streaming giant Netflix arrived locally.

Since then, it has expanded to 45 African countries and 33 countries beyond the continent — including Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

Showmax features local and international content, most of which is the same as MultiChoice produces or licences for its DStv satellite service.

Local content includes popular TV shows and movies that also feature on Mzansi Magic and kykNET, and several acclaimed Showmax Originals like Devilsdorp and Steinheist.

Showmax’s international offering primarily consists of movies and TV shows carried on its M-Net channels, including sought-after HBO series like House of the Dragon, The Last of Us, and Westworld.

The service arguably has the most up-to-date and best slate of international films of the three, with recent additions in its library including Top Gun: Maverick, Dune, and House of Gucci.

Aside from a free tier with very limited content, Showmax comes with a standard plan at R99 per month for its full entertainment catalogue, while a Pro membership for R349 per month adds some live sports, news, and music channels.

For the past few years, MultiChoice has reported significant increases in Showmax numbers in its financial results.

However, determining the actual number of Showmax subscribers in South Africa is difficult, as the broadcaster only reports percentage increases.

Digital TV Research previously estimated that Showmax had amassed roughly 861,000 subscribers by the end of 2021 — a figure it forecasted would grow to 1.08 million a year later.

Experience broadcasters become young streaming rivals

eMedia — which owns and runs e.tv-branded channels — launched its on-demand streaming service called eVOD in August 2021.

Around a year later, it had amassed over half a million subscribers on the platform.

eVOD says it offers over 3,000 hours of content across its local and international catalogues.

These include its popular soaps and TV shows, dubbed Afrikaans telenovelas, and relatively old and lesser-known Hollywood movies.

Users can stream for free or subscribe to a Premium plan at R29.99 per month for access to additional movies and TV shows and a Fast Forward feature.

The latter lets you view up to five episodes of a soap or telenovela before it airs on E-tv.

The SABC’s over-the-top streaming platform play saw the public broadcaster take over the TelkomONE streaming service in mid-November 2022 and rebrand it as SABC+.

The broadcaster hopes its streaming platform could help regain some viewers whose entertainment consumption migrated from broadcast TV to online streaming.

SABC+ features all of the public broadcaster’s free-to-air TV channels and radio stations, which are streamed live, in addition to on-demand and catchup content of its most popular soaps and TV shows.

Other content categories include documentaries, edutainment, and retro programming.

The service is completely free, but viewers have the option to pay for an Amp subscription for additional TV channels, kids shows, short films, and BET and MTV reality series.

SABC+’s primary weakness seems to be a lack of recognisable feature-length films.

Nevertheless, broadcasting journalist TV with Thinus previously reported that the SABC claimed its subscriber base grew by an average of 15,000 every week since its launch.

If that trend continued, it should have added roughly 135,000 subscribers by January 2023.

Added to the 150,000 subscribers it inherited from TelkomONE, SABC+ should have approximately 285,000 subscribers.

The table below compares the content, features, and pricing of eVOD, SABC+, and Showmax.

South African video streaming services compared
Feature eVOD SABC+ Showmax
Content
Movies 200+ 100+ 1,550
TV shows 105 563
Live channels
  • 2 (free)
  • 6 (free)
  • 16 (AMP)
  • 0 (free)
  • 0 (Standard)
  • 6 (Pro)
Live radio stations 0 19 0
Technical features
Supported platforms
  • Desktop browser
  • Android and iOS phones and tablets
  • Desktop browser
  • Android and iOS phones
  • Android tablets
  • Hisense Smart TV
  • Desktop browser
  • Android and iOS phones
  • Android and iPadOS tablets
  • Android, Apple, Hisense, LG, Samsung smart TVs and media boxes
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
Concurrent streams 2 2 2
Maximum number of devices 2 3 5
Minimum Internet speed “3G speed” 1-2Mbps 2Mbps
Maximum streaming resolution 720p (HD Ready) 720p (HD Ready) 720p (HD Ready)
Data saver mode No No Yes
Offline watching (downloads) No Yes Yes
Price and membership details
Free tier Yes Yes Yes
Paid tier free trial No No Yes, 14 days
Paid tier price
  • R29.99 per month
  • R7 per day
  • R17 per weekend
  • R19 per week
  • R49 per month
  • R39 per month (Mobile only)
  • R99 per month (Standard)
  • R225 per month (Mobile Pro)
  • R349 per month (Standard Pro)
Paid features/content
  • Fast Forward — watch five episodes of soaps or telenovelas before airing on TV
  • Additional movies and TV shows
  • Additional live channels, shows, kids’ content, and short films
  • Additional movies and TV shows (Standard)
  • Sports content, live news and music channels (Pro)
Subscribers “Nearly 600,000 registrations” (November 2022) Est. 285,000 (January 2023) Est. 1.08 million (December 2022)

Now read: Bad news for the SABC’s TV Licences hopes

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South African streaming battle — Showmax vs eVOD vs SABC+