New SA competitor to Netflix, ShowMax launches: OnTapTV

The South African video-on-demand (VOD) market is quickly reaching saturation point, as another video streaming service,, has just been unveiled. The announcement comes little over a month after Naspers rolled out its ShowMax service.

Unlike rival services, you’ll be able to download TV shows and movies from OnTapTV to watch offline – which is great news for travellers and those who don’t have fast broadband at home. The firm’s boss, Lindsay Servian, also confirmed a partnership with AlwaysOn which will give customers access to bundles for bandwidth and TV content at WiFi hotspots.

OnTapTV is backed by Hong Kong’s PCCW, a media firm which has already invested heavily in South Africa and is a key player in the new smart city development in Modderfontein, Gauteng. PWWC’s parent company, HKT, runs TV on demand services in its native Hong Kong.

What you can watch

Like Times Media’s VIDI, the content on OnTapTV will be a hybrid model of an all-you-can-eat subscription for TV shows and older movies and pay-per-view for the latest Hollywood blockbusters.

Rentals will be available for 48 hour periods.

In terms of subscription packages, the service will have four up for grabs. The MegaPack consists of family viewing, TV series and movies; the Family pack is content suitable for under 16s; the TV Series pack features international TV series suitable for over 16s; while the last package, Movies, features international movies only.

There are also three special interest supbscriptions: African OnTapTV, Chinese (nowTV) and FightSports. The African bouquet will feature South African television series and movies, while the other two feature Chinese movies and series, and fight sports. An Indian language bouquet is planned for the future.

You will also be able to connect your devices to your television so that you can watch films and series on a bigger screen, although there’s no console or smart TV apps as yet (Servian says these are in development).

When ShowMax launched last month, the quality of many of the shows on offer came into question. The service experienced choppy visuals and out-of-sync sound, while streaming at 720p resolution. Steps have been taken since then to address things, however.

OnTapTV will be offering video streaming in two video quality settings, which it calls High and Low resolution.

The service will have local SABC films and series (including Afrikaans shows), content from MGM, Warner Bros. and BBC Worldwide. OnTapTV explained that it will be adding more African and Indian content in the coming months, as well as more shows from the US and UK.

Initial impressions are that it’s a decent selection, but not quite as compelling as ShowMax and still in a different league to Netflix.

So how much will OnTapTV cost?

At its cheapest, the starting package will be R39 a month, while 48-hour movie rentals will be R15 a film. If you decide to go with the MegaPack, which includes all non-rental content OnTapTV has to offer, you are looking at paying R89 a month.

The Family Pack and TV Pack are both R69 a month.

If you want to try the service before you commit to a monthly plan, there is a free option which acts like a trial period. But the thing is, there is no time limit on it. All you need to do is sign in and you can start watching the free content. The free content will be refreshed occasionally, but it will only feature selected episodes from selected series.

Downloads for free

OnTapTV has also partnered with WiFi provider AlwaysOn by negotiating a special offer for subscribers.

Dedicated data bundles for exclusive OnTapTV use in AlwaysOn’s Super WiFi locations have been created, so that you can view and even download televisions shows and movies while in a shopping mall, airport or hotel. 15GB of AlwaysOn data will cost R29 and be valid for 30 days, while a 50GB package will be R59 and valid for 30 days.

Servian says that the firm is also investing in locally made TV shows, and is partnering with SA’s Maxum Media Accelerator for exclusive content which will be announced later this year.


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