media update’s Taylor Goodman unpacks the pros and cons of streaming services and cable TV to help you gain a better understanding of the options at your disposal, allowing you to pay for a service you really want.  

We are living in the golden age of television, where anything you want to watch is right at your fingertips — literally. 

Whether you choose paid TV, streaming or both, the growth of the internet and technological advancements happening in the industry all make for a pleasant viewing experience. 

Now, let’s look at the viewing options available to you:

Pay TV

Paid or cable television is a staple in many households all over the world. 

You may be wondering, “Why is it called cable television in the first place?” Well, this form of viewing works by delivering content via a cable that is connected to a decoder. As the name suggests, the decoder deciphers the programming so that it can be viewed by you

The pros of pay TV

One of the biggest advantages of pay TV is its stability. As you are not under the heel of a strong internet connection in order to watch something, this means no buffering. In this sense, cable TV is like a childhood friend that you can always rely on for a good time. 

As we talk about reliability, something that pay TV has always provided its viewers with is live content. This is especially important for sports fans who want a reliable place to watch their favourite team. 

Another advantage of cable is its subtle diversity. On pay TV platforms, you can record live TV to watch later, access pay-per-view content and take advantage of bundle offers

The perfect example of a South African pay TV is DSTV. With this network, subscribers can choose from multiple packages that vary in price and cater to a wide array of viewers. For example, there is an Indian package that offers people 29 channels of Bollywood brilliance for R395 a month.

DSTV Premium is the most expensive package, available from R819 per month. Here, you have access to 157 channels and the option to add streaming platform Showmax to your account for free (hello bundle offers!). 

The cheapest option is EasyView, which offers 36 channels for R29 per month. 

Additionally, DSTV offers a pay-per-view movie option called Boxoffice, where users can rent a movie for R35 for a period of 48 hours

The cons of pay TV

A major drawback is the cost. If a viewer wants an all-inclusive viewing experience, they could end up paying an arm and a leg. Additionally, the viewer will be tied to a fixed contract for as long as 24 months

Using DSTV as an example, a subscriber wanting the full Premium experience will have to shell out money to buy a decoder and pay for their subscription fee every month.

To put things into perspective, the newest DSTV decoder, the Explora Ultra, costs R3 499including installation. This, plus the monthly Premium subscription fee, can really add up. 

Another drawback of cable TV is its limited accessibility. As this form of television is linked to hardware, like a decoder, it is not as mobile as purely streaming. Although DSTV does offer a streaming option, DSTV Now, which allows users to watch live TV from their phone or laptop, is only available if you are already a DSTV subscriber

Analogue TV — the fallen soldier

The broadcasting industry has seen a departure from analogue TV to digital in recent years, which has changed the way the world watches television forever. 

Analogue TV signals are transmitted similarly to radio signals, which according to Lifewire, leaves it vulnerable to interference from weather, distance or ghosting. 

The South African government has stated that the intention to phase out analogue TV is a part of “the global strategy to properly manage [radio] spectrum” because radio is a “scarce and valuable resource” that needs to be used more efficiently worldwide. 

The government goes on to explain that phasing out analogue TV is necessary to line up frequency plans with other countries so that “there is no interference with other countries’ broadcasting signals.”


Netflix, Showmax, Hulu, Prime video … chances are, if you’re living in 2021, you have at least one of these streaming services, if not all of them. 

The Covid-19 pandemic and the improvement of internet infrastructure are considered to be the reasons why streaming has skyrocketed worldwide — not to mention its affordability. 

As broadband technology improves, and 5G broadband becomes more mainstream, streaming has become a lot more accessible to a local audience. This coupled with the public pressure to reduce data costs via the #DataMustFall campaign means the future of streaming locally looks bright. 

In South Africa, the biggest streaming platforms are Netflix and Showmax, with a viewership of around 400 000 and 595 000 respectively. On a global scale, 27% of 18-29-year-olds claim to prefer streaming over pay TV.  

The pros of streaming

Easily the biggest plus of streaming is variety. No matter what your interests are, there is an array of content available for your viewing pleasure. 

According to Moneyweb, Netflix has over 3 000 titles available, while Showmax has around 1 000 different shows and movies to choose from. These platforms are constantly updating their titles to give viewers fresh content on a weekly basis. 

Another advantage of streaming is that it is affordable, and because of this, you can subscribe to multiple streaming platforms at once, allowing you to tailor where you stream from according to your interests. 

A basic plan on Netflix costs as little as R99 per month, while the premium package is R169 per month. What sets Netflix apart from DSTV is that you can access all content, regardless of what price tier you’re on. 

Additionally, Netflix and Showmax offer free trials, allowing the user to try the platform out before committing. Although, even when signing up for these platforms, you are not tied to a fixed contract and can cancel your subscription at any time. 

A Netflix premium plan gives you to access unlimited movies and series, which you can watch on four different screens at one time. As you can access your Netflix profile from multiple screens, you are able to create up to four different profiles on the platform, where each individual can curate the content that they like. 

The cons of streaming service

The main drawback of streaming is that it relies on a stable internet connection to function. This makes it inaccessible for people living in areas without access to the internet.  

Dependence on internet connectivity can also lead to issues with lagging and buffering if your connection is slow. Additionally, streaming can consume a great deal of data, which can be expensive for the user. 

Can these mediums co-exist?

SurveyMonkey conducted a survey with 500 American viewers, 22% of which watch a combination of streaming and paid TV options. This figure alone proves that consumers aren’t looking to choose between these platforms — many of them would prefer to have both

With that in mind, it is clear that pay TV can benefit from including streaming as a part of their packages. We see this in the success of the convergence of DSTV and Showmax. This proves that cable TV and streaming can work together to provide viewers with an all-inclusive viewing experience. 

Do you prefer streaming or pay TV? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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If you want to learn more about the television industry, then be sure to check out Three reasons why TV is still the best for news consumption.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy