South Africans once relied heavily on piracy and torrents to get access to the latest international shows and movies, but this changed drastically following the growth of Netflix and other streaming services in South Africa.
MyBroadband spoke to numerous local ISPs, all of whom said that Netflix and other streaming services had seen massive growth in terms of data traffic volumes.
This was matched by a relative decline in torrent traffic as South Africans no longer need to pirate their favourite shows and series.
The data traffic trends observed by local ISPs point to a change in behaviour among South Africans, with local Internet users preferring to pay a monthly fee for access to shows via a streaming service than to illegally download and store content on their hard drives.
Below is the feedback we received from South African ISPs regarding the growth in Netflix usage compared to torrent traffic.
Supersonic MD Calvin Collet stated that all streaming platforms have overtaken peer-to-peer file sharing.
“It’s not just Netflix but all OTT services, YouTube, Youtube Premium, Showmax, DSTV Now and other streaming services that have completely overtaken the need for torrent sharing, and the latter makes for a small amount of traffic on our network compared to OTT Streaming,” Collet said.
He added that the selection of streaming services in South Africa would only get better, offering customers the ability to select which ones they want to subscribe to.
“We expect to see lots of new international entrants into the streaming space, and this will put pressure on Netflix and give consumers the ability to really choose their content preferences far easier.”
Webafrica’s Greg Wright told MyBroadband that Netflix now comprises half of its total traffic at peak usage times.
“The growth of Netflix in recent years has been truly phenomenal, to the point where we no longer track torrent traffic separately,” Wright said.
“Netflix now accounts for about half our traffic at peak time.”
“Google (including Youtube) and Netflix are dominating the content currently,” he added.
Below is a screenshot showing some of the top Source ASNs (Networks) coming into Webafrica’s network (click on the image to enlarge it).
Cool Ideas co-founder Paul Butschi also said that torrents were comparatively small in relation to Netflix.
“Our Netflix traffic makes up for around 30% of all traffic at peak times,” he said.
“Most people stream; not many people download anymore, so torrent and downloads are small in comparison.”
Butschi added that the rise of streaming services like Netflix has greatly impacted torrent traffic, as it is much more of an effort to pirate and store content than just streaming it on demand.
RSAWEB told MyBroadband that it has seen massive growth in Netflix data traffic.
“RSAWEB is a Netflix Open Connect Partner which allows us to serve content on-net,” the company said. “This allows us to accurately measure traffic growth over the last two years. We have seen our peak time usage effectively double every six months.”
“The ratios have significantly changed compared to a few years ago,” the company added. “The current ratio would be for every 50Mbps of aggregated torrent traffic we observe 1Gbps of aggregated Netflix streaming traffic.”
“Netflix definitely played a vital part in changing user behaviour. The South African internet culture has changed from hoarding downloaded content from torrents to on-demand streaming.”
Cybersmart CTO Laurie Fialkov said the ISP has also seen massive growth in Netflix data traffic.
“Many years ago there was no official Netflix so you had to do a VPN/DNS workaround to get international Netflix working, so that in itself was a big barrier,” Fialkov said
“Further, a couple of years ago, high-speed Internet was not available to everyone. So even if you had a Netflix account, if you wanted to watch in HD without buffering it was better to be sure and download.”
“Now there is Netflix in South Africa, high-speed internet is common, and you do not have to download a whole movie before deciding that it is not your cup of tea.”
He added that peer-to-peer sharing can have unknown content sources and carries the risk of infected files in addition to copyright infringement.
“I believe that for under R100 many people aren’t prepared to take that risk,” Fialkov said. “So the increase is significant. In fact, we have more bandwidth to Netflix now than our entire network’s capacity 5 years ago.”
Peer-to-peer traffic makes up less than 2% of Cybersmart’s traffic, with downloads comprising around 15%. Netflix, Showmax, DStv, and other streaming services subsequently make up around 83% of all movie-type content on the network.