The rise of streaming services: Explore your options


The digital revolution has touched most aspects of our lives, and absolutely reinvented everyday media and entertainment. When television was introduced in South Africa in 1976, most viewers still went to movie theatres to watch films and their TV viewing was restricted to 1 SABC channel for a few hours a day. Programming was financed by the licence fee and, from 1978, by paid advertising. Although the number of channels and the daily broadcast hours increased over the years, the public broadcaster faced no competition from pay TV until 1986, when M-Net was launched.

In the 1990s, M-Net launched MultiChoice and DStv, followed by its hugely successful SuperSport offshoot. This subscription-based satellite TV service gave South Africans access to a wealth of international and local channels, including news, sports and movies, and it has grown a strong footprint in other territories throughout Africa. Satellite dish installation and premier subscriptions come at a cost, however, so affordability can be an issue for broadcast pay TV.


The digital entertainment industry in SA

Now, both terrestrial and satellite broadcasting face stiff competition, tied to South Africans’ growing internet access, from the rise of digital streaming services to deliver media and entertainment. Revenue from streaming is already poised to outpace TV subscription revenue. The spread of stable, reliable fibre to the home (FTTH) capable of high-speed information transfer has given millions in SA access to streaming services.

Key segments of the market, like video gaming, sports and entertainment, saw huge growth during the Covid lockdowns, as you’d expect. Increasingly, media and entertainment are shifting from appointment viewing to a content-on-demand model. Video streaming services are growing at more than 6% year-on-year, with many new entrants appearing on the market.

But are these services affordable to households that are already under financial strain?  


Cost considerations in the streaming era

A full satellite subscription service currently costs more per year than 5 of the available streaming services combined. Even if you factor in the cost of a device on which to access streamed content, this is a tempting proposition for cash-strapped households. A high-resolution smart TV with preinstalled apps is likely to be your major cost outlay, although there are other ways you can view streaming content without buying a smart TV. For example, you can connect an internet-enabled computer or mobile device to a compatible TV or monitor.


When load-shedding strikes, you can still access streaming subscriptions on battery-powered devices with a wireless internet connection


Subscription prices to most streaming services in the South African market are similar, with each of the players benefiting from revenue boosts as advertisers migrate from traditional media channels to streaming platforms. But the current growth in subscriber numbers should make these services even more affordable over time, driven by increased advertising revenue.

The major advantages of getting your entertainment from streaming services include access to a broad selection of content, the power to watch what you want when you want to, and to watch it again as many times as you like. Naturally, those advantages are subject to the content menu offered by the service provider, but the fierce competition in this growing market does mean you can choose from a variety of subscription services and packages to access the content you prefer.


Cost-effective streaming

Much of the growth in streaming subscriptions is also being fuelled by mobile internet penetration in SA. An estimated 80% of the population have mobile internet access, mostly on smartphones. Although the growth in video streaming via mobile devices has not yet exerted much downward pressure on data prices, mobile data packages are cheaper and more accessible than fixed-line connections for most South Africans.

Another advantage is that when load-shedding strikes, you can still access streaming subscriptions on battery-powered devices with a wireless internet connection. For households on a tight budget, accessing streaming services through mobile devices can be much more affordable than using fixed-line internet – and cheaper than a satellite subscription. Here are some tips to save costs on streaming:

  • Each service has individual subscription fees, but buying a package of different services might be more cost-effective.

  • Research options for internet provision depending on your household’s needs – you’ll need a stable source of broadband internet and may decide to invest in a smart TV.

  • Older TVs can also usually be linked to laptops, desktops or mobile devices through a cheap HDMI cable connection, providing a bigger screen for streaming.

Nedbank offers different options for personal and home loan finance if you want to look at upgrades for your home internet services, invest in a new smart TV or subscribe to streaming subscriptions. You can also get great deals on internet connectivity, data packages and devices at Avo SuperShop.