Netflix in South African Homes – Will It Change Things?

Online conversations in South Africa are ablaze with rumours about when Netflix will officially hit our shores. While some sources say that it could be coming to our TV screens in 2016, a number of telecommunications providers are apparently already in talks to make it happen.

Netflix in SA | DigiKids

But, while there are rumours and plans flying around cyberspace, we have to ask the question:


How will Netflix hitting our screens really affect how we catch up with our favourite series or settle in for a family movie night? Let’s take a look at a few facts:

    • Netflix requires broadband connections in the home – yes, it really does. You won’t be binge-watching series over a 3G connection. For Netflix to work, you’d need a broadband Internet connection in your home (unless you’re happy to ring up an insane databill…Netflix chomps data like crazy!). That means ADSL, VDSL, Uncapped Wireless Tech or FTTH (Fibre To The Home) will be the best solution for households to enjoy Netflix. In terms of the South African population, however, the majority of households don’t yet have that kind of connectivity and the cost of it is way out of the budget capacity for many. It’ll be quite a while before Netflix becomes as commonplace in homes as DSTV or M-Net.


    • Sources say that there are already illegal ‘workaround’ ways to watch Netflix in South Africa, but those seem to require fiddly technological solutions – that’s not an easy solution for the masses.


    • There’s a number of other television and audio streaming services already out there and picking up steam in SA. Just take a look at the Altech Node and VIDI, to name a few.


    • Netflix is and probably always will be a subscription-based service. DSTV, for example, expanded its subscriber base by creating more affordable, smaller subscription packages for users but, for Netflix, it’ll be generalised one fee for all content. Diluting the packaged offering to make it more affordable for all…isn’t really in Netflix’s plan of action for anywhere. Yes, it’s true that Netflix offers basic, standard and premium packages but the bottom line budget differences aren’t that huge, and they do not limit the content that users can receive, but rather add in value-based options for subscribers that focus on viewing quality and the number of devices that users can stream to.


  • Netflix, by its very nature, is great for binge-watching, as users can settle in and zone out for endless streaming of episode after episode of their favourite series. That’s not such a great thing, when it comes to kids, as we’ve discussed the issues around too much TV time before. But, take a little look at the research we mention below too, and we’re a long way off from blaming our family’s couch potatoism on streaming services. Our apparent national hobby of couch potatoism will happen, no matter how we receive our content. It’s up to us to limit TV time in our families.

That aside, once streaming services like Netflix do become commonplace in South African homes, it’ll present an interesting set of competition for the usual television broadcasters. Research conducted in 2014 found that: “With on-demand, streaming subscription sites and apps, kids can now find the shows they want whenever they want them. Couple that with the fact many kids prefer watching “TV” on tablets rather than on a traditional television set and it could spell trouble for the networks currently serving kids. According to recent research from Tennessee-based youth and family research firm Smarty Pants, services such as Netflix, YouTube and Hulu in the US are now competing on equal footing with kids television networks—and winning.” You can read more about that research report here.

But that’s still a long way off for us, as Canada has also experienced an influx of on-demand and streaming services, but just 5 to 10 percent of their television viewers are consuming content this way: “Stewart estimates between five and 10 per cent of all TV viewing is happening through video streaming services, a fraction of the country’s overall time in front of the television”. You can read about Canada’s experience with the arrival of on-demand streaming services here.

Will the arrival of on-demand viewing and streaming services make a big impact on South African households? The answer is – yes it will, but not immediately.

Cath Jenkin

As a mom, Cath raises her daughter with a strong focus on technology, as she believes that digital literacy is as important as learning to read. With a long history of creating content for online and print publications, and in particular as a parenting columnist, Cath brings her curious mind... Read more

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