Just a week after Times Media Group launched its Vidi subscription streaming video-on-demand (VOD) service in South Africa, Altech unveiled its own push VOD and home automation system, Node.
This means that South Africans now have a choice of 2 (legal) subscription VOD providers (where two weeks ago they had no options), in addition to the services included with DStv subscriptions.
Before embarking on a comparison of the various services now on offer in South Africa, we will first have to define a common vocabulary:
Subscription VOD (SVOD) is an on-demand service like Netflix which offers users access to video content for a monthly subscription fee. Movies and TV series typically only become available on SVOD some time after they have been released on DVD.
Transactional VOD (TVOD) services such as DStv BoxOffice and iTunes lets users rent (or buy, on iTunes) videos on a per-item basis. Movies are usually available to rent on TVOD services for a limited time after they come off circuit, but before they are released on DVD.
Catch up is usually offered by broadcast platforms such as DStv as a value-added service, giving subscribers on-demand access to recently aired content. In DStv’s case this includes older movies than are available on TVOD, new and repeat episodes of TV shows, and sports highlights.
Streaming refers to the delivery methods used by a content distributor. Vidi and Netflix are examples of streaming providers which require that users stream videos from servers over an Internet connection. While this has benefits, for South Africans it means data costs which may need to be considered.
Push is another type of delivery method. Node “pushes” content (via satellite) to a decoder-like box that stores it on a hard drive, encrypted. You then access the content on the hard drive (provided you’ve paid for it) rather than streaming it over the Internet.
With the lesson in VOD terminology out of the way, here’s how DStv, Node, and Vidi compare:
|SA VOD services||Node||Vidi||DStv BoxOffice||DStv Catch Up|
|Operator||Altech||Times Media Group||MultiChoice||MuiltiChoice|
|Movie rentals||R15 | R25||R15 | R27||R10 | R32 (R27)||N/A|
|TV (key shows)||Mad Men, Weeds||Breaking Bad, Lost||N/A||Ray Donovan, House of Cards, Gotham (upcoming)|
|Push / streaming||Push||Streaming||Push** & streaming||Push & streaming|
|Installation (once-off)||R3,499 (promo)||R0||R0**||R2,268 – R3,499|
|Content selection||~700 hours||Over 1,000 hours of series, and over 100 movies||176 movies||Over 900 episodes, movies, sports highlights|
|* DStv Premium with R75 PVR Access Fee; Catch Up is among the features offered|
|** BoxOffice online is a non-subscription service available to anyone. DStv Compact, Extra, and Premium subscribers get BoxOffice as a push to PVR service and receive a R5 discount on premium rentals|
Vidi, Node, and DStv all offer a combination of subscription and TVOD services, though DStv Catch Up (as the name suggests) is a catch-up service and not SVOD like Vidi and Node.
All three platforms use a 2-tiered movie rental price structure which offers older movies for cheaper prices, while newer releases are rented for between R25 and R32.
DStv BoxOffice also comes in two variants: online and PVR. DStv BoxOffice online is available to anyone in South Africa with an Internet connection and has no subscription fee.
DStv BoxOffice on PVR is only available to a selection of DStv’s broadcast bouquets, where subscribers have paid the R75/month PVR access fee. These are:
- DStv Compact: R370/month
- DStv Extra: R474/month
- DStv Premium: R740/month
While Netflix is not technically available in South Africa, and legal professionals have warned that using Netflix in South Africa is probably illegal, it is worth benchmarking our local offerings against the global SVOD powerhouse.
Netflix is an SVOD-only platform which now produces its own premium content, such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Its streaming-only service costs $7.99 per month.
To access Netflix in South Africa you will likely also need a virtual private network or some kind of region unblocking tool. One popular service charges $4.95 per month.
In total, this comes to $12.94 for Netflix – which at R11.10 to the U.S. dollar comes to R143.63 per month.
If we’re comparing Vidi and Node to DStv, we would be remiss not to consider iTunes, since it is legally available in South Africa.
iTunes offers a TVOD service, but also lets you buy movies if you don’t just want to rent them.
Unlike Vidi and Node, iTunes has a multi-tiered pricing structure which takes age and video quality into account:
- Classic movies, SD: R24.99
- Classic movies, HD: R34.99
- New releases, SD: R34.99
- New releases, HD: R44.99