Revamped SABC+ streaming service launched — with higher streaming quality than Showmax, for now

The SABC has revamped its SABC+ video streaming service, offering a new design, higher streaming quality, and several other enhancements and new features.

The public broadcaster recently advised users that the service would experience issues and downtime over 48 hours from Friday, 1 December 2023, due to being migrated to a new platform for an “exciting new offer”.

“This update underscores the SABC’s dedication to continue providing audiences with an optimised and enriched SABC+ experience.”

“This will ensure that in future there is an enhanced and more robust digital content delivery for our valued viewers.”

The old service was a rebadged version of the TelkomONE streaming service, which the SABC inherited in November 2022.

It offers streaming of seven of the SABC’s free-to-air TV channels and 19 radio stations.

The revamped service is now available at on a computer or phone browser or through the SABC+ mobile app on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

The first and most obvious change is that an account is no longer required to use the service.

Previously, you had to create a profile with a cellphone number and password to access the service.

The SABC specified that users could access the service without an account “this season”, suggesting it could reintroduce an account system later.

It also said a Festive Pop-up channel would be available to stream.

New design and layout

While the broadcaster did not specify any further details on any changes or improvements, we noticed several.

The primary interface seems less cluttered, with clear divisions between different categories and a new, bolder font.

The home page on the web-based platform categorises the SABC’s free-to-air channels by TV Channels, News, Sports, and Radio Stations.

The top bar of the website also lets users jump between Home, TV, Radio, and a Manage Your TV licence section.

On the new mobile app, users are first presented with the options to stream TV or Radio.

From there, they can select their preferred live channel or station to stream.

New SABC+ mobile app screenshots

Regarding the actual video playback experience, the maximum streaming quality has been bumped from 720p to 1080p on both the web and mobile.

That is a higher streaming quality than on local streaming rivals eVOD and Showmax.

However, Showmax plans to increase its maximum streaming resolution to 1080p on its relaunched Peacock-based platform, which is set to debut in February 2024.

On the new SABC+ platform, users can manually choose between 240p, 360p, 720p, and 1080p, or opt for the “Auto” option to adopt the resolution to their Internet connection speed.

We encountered no problems streaming at the highest quality during our brief test. There was no buffering or loading while connected to a 100Mbps fibre connection shared by multiple users.

When using our browser’s developer console, we consistently saw 1080 as the video height.

We noticed lines on some of the SABC’s content, suggesting there were potentially some teething problems with its video encoding and decoding.

The issue did not appear on all the SABC’s content nor in the commercials shown between programming segments.

Nevertheless, the content quality was highly watchable and rather impressive for a free platform.

Unedited screenshot from a scene of Generations: The Legacy, taken during a live stream of SABC 3.

There was also an option to use picture-in-picture (PiP) mode on both the web and mobile apps.

On the web, this feature lets the user separate the SABC+ video into a small new window that can be dragged across other tabs as the user browses through the Internet.

This is useful if you want to follow a sports match while doing work, for example.

On mobile, PiP lets you use other apps while the video is shown in a small moveable app window covering a part of them.

Another new feature we noticed on the website was a TV guide appearing to the right of the video when not in full screen, showing the times of upcoming programming.

The SABC has advised that some of its previous platform’s functionality would not be available in the early days of the service.

At the time of publication, this included the ability to watch recent episodes of popular soaps and series via a catch-up feature. Screencasting also appears to have been disabled for the time being.

The broadcaster explained it would continue implementing new features and modifications to the service post-migration and asked audiences to be patient during the transition period.

We asked the SABC for further details on new features that will be available on the revamped app but did not immediately receive feedback to our queries.

Now read: SABC appoints former DStv and MTN executive as new CEO

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Revamped SABC+ streaming service launched — with higher streaming quality than Showmax, for now