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On Wednesday evening South African internet users were greeted with news that they, along with people around 130 other countries, would be able to access Netflix for the first time. That’s neat. Except it’s not entirely true. A fair number of South Africans have been accessing the VoD service for some time now, using a semi-legal system of VPNs and IP masking services.
You’d think that these users would be happy to switch to the local version, if only because they’d no longer have to bother with all those add-ons, but it’s actually not that simple.
Here are the pros and cons of making the switch.
In South Africa, as in all the markets it operates in, Netflix’ starting cost is US$7.99 (+/-R127) a month with slightly more expensive plans for people looking to access the service on multiple devices and in Ultra HD. So from that perspective, there isn’t any real incentive to switch over (although if you’re an iOS user, you’ll be able to see the price in Rands). But if you’ve been using paid-for DNS and VPN services — UnoTelly is probably the most popular — to access Netflix, then you may enjoy having to pay a little bit less. Of course, if you’re using the service to access other services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer, then you’re unlikely to give up your UnoTelly subscription any time soon. And given that no one streaming service can provide everything serious content viewers want, that’ll probably be the case for a fair number of users.
If you do choose to use the local version of Netflix and ditch your VPN and IP masking services, you’ll be making your life marginally simpler — if only because you’ll have fewer accounts you need to take care of.
While no South African has been prosecuted for using a VPN or IP masking service for the purposes of streaming, doing so isn’t strictly legal. This isn’t because the services themselves are illegal but because accessing content outside of the areas they’re licensed for is. If that even remotely bothers you, then you might consider going with the local version of Netflix.
It’s what Netflix wants
Relax. We don’t mean this in the “you should do everything your corporate overlords tell you” sense. We’re just saying it’s worth remembering that the VoD service has been clamping down on overseas VPN users for some time now.
Another thing worth bearing in mind before making the switch over to the South African version of Netflix is that you won’t be able to access all the content you can on the US version. A content agreement with DStv for instance means that you won’t have access to popular Netflix original series such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. The same licensing issues which make using the US version of Netflix illegal also mean that the South African Netflix catalogue will be somewhat diminished from the US version.
Given that you’ll be paying exactly the same as US Netflix users, this could be particularly grating. In fact, some South Africans
You’ll lose geek cred
Say what you like about the admin of setting up VPNs, proxies, and IP masks, being able to do so does come with a degree of geek cred. If you choose to go the simple route and switch over to the local version of Netflix, you’ll be just like everyone else. And who the hell would want that?
Certainly not this Netflix user, who spoke to Memeburn on condition on anoymity:
“I will not change over to Netflix South Africa — and continue using my VPN to access the US Netflix only. The fact that Netflix has come to SA is irrelevant for me – I would prefer to use the US version, as do the most savvy people in the industry who know what’s going on — because you can get more content on the US version (and therefore more bang for your buck)… and at the same price. I wouldn’t bother signing up to Netflix SA. Use a VPN and sign up to the US account for best content. Oh, and then cancel your DStv — you wont need it anymore”.