Netflix recently launched in South Africa as part of the service’s expansion to 130 new countries.
In SA, the streaming giant is up against more minor services like ShowMax, OntapTV, VU, and Vidi.
One would assume that an established player like Netflix would blow the local offerings out of the water, but thanks to regional content licensing, things aren’t that simple.
There are many areas where Netflix still has its South African competition licked, though, and only comparing the number of titles available on each platform won’t tell you which is better.
Factors to consider when deciding on a video-on-demand (VOD) service include:
  1. Price
  2. Range of content
  3. Streaming quality
  4. Platform support
  5. Usability of apps


Comparing pricing across different services is difficult as each offers other plans.
Many VOD providers also offer movie rentals in addition to their subscription service.
These transactional VOD services are available from OntapTV, Vidi, and VU – whether you subscribe to them or not. For the purposes of our comparison, we’ve disregarded their rental offerings.
ShowMax is R99 monthly, giving you access to 2 simultaneous HD (current max: 720p) streams.
Vidi has a similar structure but also offers subscriptions for R5 a day, and you don’t need a credit card to subscribe. You can pay using Vodacom airtime or EasyPay.
VU, formerly MTN FrontRow, charges R99 monthly but also has a weekend package for R39 once-off.
OntapTV’s Mega Pack is R89, but cheaper packages are available. For R69 per month, you can subscribe to the Family, Movies or TV Series package.
Netflix has 3 price tiers, none of which are available in rand. This means fees will fluctuate with the exchange rate.
The comparable plan to those above is Netflix Standard, which gives access to 2 HD streams (1080p) for $9.99 per month (±R160).
This means that Netflix is the most expensive subscription VOD service currently available in South Africa.
Netflix in SA is priced the same as in the United States but offers a much smaller content library. This may discourage existing subscribers using unblocking services from switching.

Range of content

Comparing the number of movies and TV shows of the VOD services only tells part of the story. It is virtually impossible to individually compare the hundreds of titles on each platform.
[ compares SA vs US Netflix content library].
However, it is possible to see how content compares and how regional licensing affects content availability.
The table below compares some of the shows common to both Netflix and ShowMax, showing which seasons are available and how current they are.
TV Shows common to Netflix and ShowMax
Series and seasonsNetflix ZAShowMaxStatus
Arrow22Season 4 airing
Bates Motel22Season 4 airing
Brooklyn Nine-Nine11Season 3 airing
Elementary23Season 4 airing
Ray Donovan23Season 3 finished, renewed
Suits44Season 5 airing
Under the Dome22Season 3 ended, cancelled
It’s worth noting that while Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Elementary, Ray Donovan, Suits, and Under the Dome are available on Netflix SA, they are not available on Netflix US.
Netflix also has several original shows and movies you won’t find on other services, such as Hemlock Grove, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Sense8, Making a Murderer, Narcos, Beasts of No Nation, and Master of None.
It also has Black Sails (season 1), previously only available on VU (season 2).
Notable absences from Netflix’s original content line-up in SA include House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. This is because Sony sold the broadcast rights to MultiChoice.
ShowMax has the rights to several shows, including Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, True Detective, Girls, True Blood, and Entourage.
It also has several older HBO shows you may not see elsewhere, such as The Newsroom, The Wire, Band of Brothers, the Pacific, and Deadwood.
OntapTVVidi, VU, and ShowMax also offer BBC content catalogues, including shows like Sherlock and Luther, which are not available on Netflix.
OntapTV has also secured rights for 3 of the newer seasons of Doctor Who.
There is no clear winner in content, and you may have to subscribe to more than one service to get all the movies and series you want.

Streaming quality

When it comes to video quality, Netflix has the competition beat.
It lets you choose lower-quality video for a lower price, or you can go up to UHD resolution.
Netflix also offers the sound quality of up to 5.1 surround sound, while other local services only have a stereo mix available.

Platform support

Netflix once again beats its competitors in the category of platform support.
You can find Netflix apps on almost any connected device, including the PS4, Xbox One, and multiple media boxes.
Netflix has become a must-have feature for manufacturers’ devices. Local operators have a long way to go to reach Netflix’s ubiquity.

Usability of apps

Netflix’s apps tend to be more user-friendly, better organised, and better looking than those from ShowMax, VU, OntapTV, and Vidi.
One feature that Netflix doesn’t have is the ability to download episodes or movies for later viewing.
Downloading for later watching is something OntapTV launched, which ShowMax has begun introducing to its Android app.


The table below summarises how Netflix compares to the rest of the VOD field in South Africa.
ServiceCost per monthContentPlatforms
Netflix US
  • R128 ($7.99 – Basic)
  • R160 ($9.99 – Standard)
  • R192 ($11.99 – Premium)
  • +R79 for unblocker ($4.95)
  • ±7,000 titles
  • Everywhere
Netflix ZA
  • R128 ($7.99 – Basic)
  • R160 ($9.99 – Standard)
  • R192 ($11.99 – Premium)
  • ±730 titles
  • 231 TV shows
  • ±500 Movies
  • Everywhere
  • R99
  • ±1000 titles
  • 20,000+ episodes across ±400 shows
  • 400 Hollywood and British movies
  • 200 local movies and TV series
  • Samsung TVs 2012+
  • LG TVs 2012+
  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Android
  • iOS
  • R89
  • ±430 titles
  • ±4,500 episodes
  • 291 movies (162 SVOD, 129 TVOD)
  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Android
  • iOS
  • R99
  • 2,500+ episodes
  • 170+ movies (±100 SVOD, ±70 TVOD)
  • Samsung TVs 2013+
  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Android
  • iOS
  • R99* (Includes zero-rated MTN data.)
  • 829 titles
  • 2,981 episodes across 97 series
  • 732 movies (241 SVOD and 491 TVOD)
  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Android
  • iOS
Exchange rate: R16/USD
* R99 VU fee is promotional and set to expire on 31 January 2015. The normal fee is R119 per month.