South Africa hasn’t always been blessed with a variety of options when it comes to online streaming services, most households relying on the government’s television service, SABC, and for the middle class and up, Multichoice’s DStv offering. Streaming services have typically always been met with one major caveat, that of a suitable data package. Users either have capped data plans, poor internet connections and slow speeds, or pricing that the average South African household simply cannot afford.
In recent years, however, mobile operators have started offering data packages that allow some leeway when it comes to streaming, such as Telkom’s LIT bundles that support YouTube, Netflix and DStv Now streaming at a reduced cost or a bolt-on bundle whenever specific data bundles are purchased. In November 2017, Cell C launched their own entertainment platform called Black, which was originally created to offer video streaming, music, concert tickets and even sports betting. While I can’t attest for the two latter features, but the service offers thousands of hours of video entertainment from anywhere and on any device.
Once you’ve subscribed to one of the many packages available, there are a number of ways to consume the service. You can access it via your Android or iOS smartphone, via any browser on your laptop or PC, as well as via a set-top box, which is available to purchase via any Cell C store or ordered online. I often switched between using the app on my smartphone or online via the browser. Once you’ve accessed the platform, there are several options to choose from as well, depending on the package you’ve chosen when signing up. These options include Live TV, Movies, Series and Music, each of which offers their own category of streaming. Live TV is just that, a selection of channels that stream video live from their respective feeds, which includes sports, news, fashion, kids and a few others.
For Movies, users can choose between renting, buying or streaming a movie. Renting and buying are typically for the more recent of films, whereas for Premium and Flexi subscriptions, the movies are free to stream. The Series tab provides content similar to that of Movies, with the Music tab offering hours’ worth of music videos based on your preferred genre. As you can tell, there’s a fairly wide range of options across the various forms of video entertainment you wish to stream.
The Black service isn’t an overly complicated streaming platform. Users can select what to watch by clicking on the respective categories to find the latest content or simply search via the function on the top right-hand side of the screen. Once you’ve found a video you wish to stream, simply click on the play button and you’re off to the races. Every so often, however, there are one or two errors with the stream, with a reoccurring message that the video is either not currently available or that a generic error has occurred, after which it provides you with a few reasons as to why the issue may have occurred. I found that the easiest way to get rid of these streaming glitches was to restart the browser and you’ll be off again in no time.
Similarly, to Telkom’s LIT, Cell C also offers tie-in data bundles for their streaming service. Users can purchase bundles such as the 1GB bundle, which is available at a cost of R30. Cell C is currently running a promotion that allows its network users to stream Black uncapped until 28 February 2019 without having to purchase a separate bundle in which to do so. There are a few T&Cs to consider, as well as a fair use policy so users won’t abuse the current free data bundles for the service. In addition to the free data, some of the Live TV feeds are also open for use without having to pay the standard R10 or so for an hour’s worth of viewing (for example).
To say that Cell C’s Black streaming service offers great value and flexibility is an understatement. Users can choose to purchase packages for daily, weekly, weekender and monthly subscriptions. In addition to this, users can also opt to pay per channel across the various timed intervals as well, offering extreme flexibility as to how they’d like to consume their content according to the financial freedoms. Compared to many other online platforms, Black offers much great variety in this regard than any other currently available in South Africa.
Where there may be some challenges is the range of content available. While there may be a fair amount of series and movies to choose from, it’s not always the latest content across the more recently released shows. Having said that, there’s still quite a lot on offer for both adults and kids if you don’t have any preconceived lists of shows you wish to watch. The inclusion of the rent and buy capabilities for movies allows Cell C to offer some of the latest content in that respect, with titles such as Avengers: Infinity War available on the platform. For series, however, you don’t have this type of luxury, so you’ll have to wait until the rights are purchased before being able to view your favourite series on Black.
Overall, the experience isn’t a bad one by any means. There’s a lot on offer to keep you and your family entertained on a daily basis for many months ahead. The flexibility of its packages also makes it stand out from the crowd as you can watch according to your budget for the specific week or month, while not been locked into any recurring costs if you choose not to. With the addition of Cell C data bundles included in the offer, it’s quite light on your pocket overall, which is very highly recommended.