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Who wins the battle of the streaming giants?

By Leslie Adams, Sales Director at Reach Africa

When it comes to choosing a streaming service, the things that matter most for South Africans aren’t always so clear-cut, and brand awareness, library size and monthly subscription cost all play a role, as does the content that a provider offers.

Netflix, hands down, is the most recognisable name among global audiences. On the other hand, Showmax offers subscribers a decent range of international and local content and at less than a hundred bucks a month, is more affordable than Netflix. eVOD is even more competitively priced but only offers limited international content, while Viu viewers enjoy international content and the best of SABC’s primetime – for free, nogal.

So which streaming service is the best option, as the rising cost of living means that wallets grow lighter but content consumption is heavier than ever? It depends.

Thanks to the proliferation of services over the past few years, streaming – or video on demand (VOD) – has become ultra-competitive, as providers strive to win a bigger slice of the viewership pie. This means that South Africans are spoiled for choice when it comes to both local and international content.

Comparing five of SA’s best-known streaming services

   No adsLimited adsWith ads
SERVICELIBRARYCONTENTSVOD –  cost per monthSVOD + ads -– cost per monthAVOD – cost per month
Viu+3100 hours of contentLocal + internationalR69n/aFree
Netflix6153 titlesMainly internationalR49 – R199n/an/a
Showmax2113 titlesLocal + internationalR39 – R99n/an/a
Amazon Prime Video9723 titlesInternationalR79n/an/a
eVOD3000 hours of contentLocal + internationaln/aR29,99Free
Library figures via, except for Viu and eVOD’s which are supplied by the provider.

Should you compare five of the best-known streaming services locally, there’s no clear-cut answer as to which one is the best choice – it’s a matter of preference and affordability. As an advertising or ad-funded video on demand service (AVOD), Viu is a great option for those who are cost-conscious but keen on a wide variety of content, with its core value proposition anchored in the best-loved South African shows.

It offers great value for those who enjoy quality international and local TV and don’t mind watching a few commercials in exchange for free entertainment.

Showmax is another option – but at R99 a month, may not be not affordable for every budget. It does, however, broadcast DStv content at a fraction of the price and sports fans can upgrade their plans to include sports, though they’ll pay a higher fee.

Netflix is the strongest brand in the category, it reaches a limited, higher-income audience which is primarily seeking international content, meaning that it is somewhat out of touch with the South African market.

Viu is the largest streaming service in terms of audience size, followed by Showmax, proving just how valuable local content is to a South African audience. While Netflix might be the most recognisable name in streaming, in South Africa both Viu and Showmax have significantly bigger libraries than Netflix, providing far more options for viewers.

Ad-funded is the way forward

The subscription video on demand (SVOD) model is most commonly employed by streaming providers, however, this model is not without its challenges, with providers considering new pricing models to keep meeting their growth targets.

The numbers prove that the “pure SVOD” model has peaked and more affordable mixed-pricing models are being introduced to audiences.

For the South African market, advertising or ad-funded video on demand (AVOD), is the fastest, most sustainable route to growth, coupled with excellent content. Removing the paywall, curating the advertising experience by limiting unnecessary exposure and offering compelling content, with a focus on local, is what viewers want.

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