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Gadget of the Week

Gadget of the Week: Showmax shifts gear

A month after the streaming service’s migration from its creaking old platform to a new vehicle, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK kicks the tyres.

What is it?

It’s always risky ditching a trusted old jalopy for an untried new vehicle. However, it couldn’t have come soon enough for Showmax, which could not keep up with the constant engine tuning over at its biggest rival, Netflix.

A month after completing its migration from a creaking old app to the Peacock streaming platform developed by NBCUniversal, Showmax is a very different ride. More sophisticated, streamlined and intuitive, it is an up-to-date experience that allows one to focus on the content rather than the controls.

Of course, there is always a sizeable proportion of customers of any service that don’t like change. For them, there has been a massive distraction: no less than 21 Showmax Originals released last month. And they will keep on coming. 

One of the current highlights is the weekly release of new episodes of Catch Me a Killer, the international co-produced series based on the biography of Micki Pistorius, South Africa’s first serial killer profiler. The new app allows Showmax to lead the viewer from the end of the most recent episode to a series that may match their taste – for example, Angela Makholwa’s serial killer thriller Red Ink.

The sleek new browsing experience includes categorisation like “Top Picks,” “Recently Added,” and “Genres” making it easy to discover new content, along with a vastly improved search function.

The range of content has also expanded, thanks to Showmax’s partnerships with major studios like Universal, Warner Bros, and HBO, and its own commitment to a steady stream of local productions. 

Highlights include the high school drama Youngins, from iEmmy nominees Tshedza Pictures; university drama Wyfie; an epic drama series set in Igboland, Cheta’m; crime drama Koek; comedy Ekhaya Backpackers; and Nigerian documentary series Free Men.

International highlights include Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning and Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, two of the 10 biggest box office hits of 2023. Both are available in HD with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, thanks to the functionality of the Peacock platform. Other highlights include the second season of Halo; missing persons series Found, NBC’s biggest launch on Peacock yet; and Neill Blomkamp’s #1 US box office hit Gran Turismo

Like Netflix, Showmax now also allows users to download content for offline viewing. 

That said, it isn’t a without its glitches: it shows some intolerance for weak signals, freezing or buffering in circumstances where Netflix keeps functioning. 

Showmax has gone some way to make amends: the updated app allows users to control their data consumption with a setting that lets them specify the amount of data they want to consume per hour. Four streaming qualities are on offer: data saving, basic, good, and best.

The app is not compatible with older smart TVs, but it does function smoothly on Chromecast Google’s streaming media adapter, which can be fitted to most TVs with an HDMI port. (See Ask Arthur)

What does it cost?

The new Showmax has three plans: Showmax Entertainment, Showmax Entertainment Mobile and Showmax Premier League Mobile. Details on pricing and launch dates have not yet been announced.  The monthly subscription for the Showmax Entertainment plan is R89 per month – down from R99 before the Peacock migration. That makes it the best value for money in the local steaming landscape. 

Access to live Premier League soccer matches is not included, but is available on mobile devices for an additional R69 per month.

Why does it matter?

“2024 is a big year for Showmax,” says CEO Marc Jury. “We will be kicking it off with a content slate packed with world-class entertainment from the world’s biggest brands plus more African Originals than ever before and the first ever mobile Premier League plan for Africa.” 

What are the biggest negatives?

  • It is unstable when connectivity is weak.
  • Freezes or crashes from time to time.
  • Not compatible with all smart TVs.

What are the biggest positives?

  • A sleek, sophisticated interface.
  • Vast range of content.
  • Excellent pricing.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx, editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee.

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