Streaming vs satellite

02 August 2019 | People

Who really offers the best value-for-money TV viewing, when it comes to streaming vs satellite?

Living costs are constantly rising and consumers are constantly assessing their decisions, with the aim to get the best possible value out of every cent they spend. Television entertainment is one of the areas, which due to massive shifts in the industry, is currently under review. What consumers are looking for is convenience, cost and content that they love - and in this regard it is not an easy balance to find, and is very dependent on whether they are a sports lover, series binge-watcher, new movie fanatic or local content fan.

It is hardly surprising Namibians are re-evaluating their entertainment needs with all the hype around online streaming entertainment services in Africa like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Google Play Movies & TV. Many are considering these as alternatives to pay television, so it is good to evaluate the differences against a set of criteria such as convenience and cost, as well your personal viewing preferences.

The pros of streaming your video entertainment

For a start, there are no installation fees or equipment to buy upfront. You simply need access to bandwidth (data) and a mobile device or computer or laptop in order to plug in and play.

The speed of your download and associated costs will be dependent on what internet package you have at your home or what data package you have from your mobile operator. Most individual streaming services are seen as being relatively affordable, given that fees come in somewhere around US$20 (N$288) per month for a single, standalone product.

Getting access to content, you want

The next decision is what you want to see: Is it live sport, local content, series or blockbuster movies which have just been released?

Streaming services such as Netflix are more likely to have slightly older catalogue of series and movies in their video libraries than DStv or GOtv, as service providers like MultiChoice negotiate and pay huge fees to obtain the rights to broadcast the latest TV shows from big Hollywood studios and the hottest blockbuster movies.

To be honest, streaming services just do not measure up in this area. Netflix is still running the first and second seasons of some big-ticket shows that are already on season five on pay TV, and its movie schedule - outside of Netflix Originals - is not the most current. Therefore, if old-school movies are what you are after, then streaming movies will probably suit you just fine.

However, if it were not for DStv, we would have completely missed absolute must-sees like Game of Thrones and the year’s most highly-anticipated returning drama Big Little Lies, which premiered on 22 February.

It’s all about the sport

However, if it is sport you are looking for - and we know most Namibians love their sport - then the bad news is that there is no sport offering on Netflix or Amazon, as the world’s biggest sporting events are on live broadcast services such as NBC, DStv or GOtv.

This year’s sporting events are among the biggest in the world - like the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, which took place in England and Wales, the just-ended 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, which kicked off on 21 June, and the 2019 Rugby World Cup, scheduled to start in Japan in September.

No streaming service - not even the new mobile ones - is ever going to compete with the live and highlights coverage, blow-by-blow analyses, and dedicated pop-up channels with exclusive behind-the-scenes footage that MultiChoice’ s SuperSport channels offer.

DStv subscribers can also watch SuperSport where they can livestream (or download to watch later) up to 11 SuperSport channels, including SuperSport 1, SuperSport 2 and SuperSport 3. Looking at it that way, I think sport fans would be hard-pressed to find the same calibre of sport action and the extent of sport coverage on any other streaming or satellite TV service.

The hidden costs

Unlike satellite or DTT providers, the customers carry the cost of delivering the online or streaming content. Therefore, when calculating the cost of your entertainment one needs to build in the internet or mobile data costs.

Local development and investing in Namibians

The streaming model does not need to rely on people on the ground to make the product work or provide support unlike MultiChoice Namibia, which employs around 160 Namibians to keep all this content on our screens. That is a direct investment of N$58 million into our national economy, and boy do we need it.

Furthermore, MultiChoice Namibia’s multiplier effect extends to the employment creation for its 13 agents, 120 accredited installers and third-party payment vendors including Airtime City, MobiPay and Tusk.

The best value for money

So, to recap, international streaming service providers like Netflix are not regulated and do not restrict viewing for younger viewers, do not employ local people and do not contribute towards our economy. “But that has little to do with the value for money TV entertainment we’re all after,” I hear you shout.

Yes, that is true; so let us break it down and see how Netflix compares to rival DStv in terms of that value for money we are all so desperately seeking. Netflix is going to cost you US$16 (N$230) plus your data - which would cost around N$999, totalling N$1 229. For that you get access to a frequently updated library of TV series and movies, available to watch on your TV, online on your PC or to watch live on or download to a device

DStv currently offers five packages, where you can choose the one that best suits your viewing needs and budget. These range from the budget-friendly DStv Access with 45 channels for just N$125 to the full bells and whistles DStv Premium, which provides 125 TV and 31 audio channels for N$809.

The downside to streaming

Long-play video streaming relies on fast, high-quality internet to work. The cost and accessibility of that in Namibia is prohibitive, leaving many TV viewers out in the cold.

You may also require more than one streaming service to meet your viewing requirements, so Disney, Netflix and Amazon. One subscription may only cost around N$230, but multiply that by four and you could be looking at in excess of N$900. That’s more than the top DStv subscription, which covers all the very latest studio series and movies, all SuperSport channels, local news and current affairs, and true local content, like The 3rd Will on Zambezi Magic, Die Spreeus and Maak My Famous on KykNET, and Huisgenoot Ware Lewens Dramas and Minki on VIA.

Decisions, decisions…

While on the surface, looking at price alone, streaming services appear to offer a competitive product, the truth is they do not offer a comparative one. Pay television still offers so much more than streaming does, so comparing these services based on price and not merit is completely ineffective.