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Is DStv cheaper than online streaming in Zimbabwe? – Here’s why that cost comparison isn’t so simple.


Despite what you may think financial mathematics is tricky business – it’s not the tuck-shop maths we are used to.

In its complexity, one of its branches that is often done wrong is costing. As you can guess from the name it means the science of finding how much a product/something costs you.

It is a science that has oft been on the receiving end of much abuse with the comparison between the costs of DStv versus the cost of online streaming being a good example. Most people think of it this way:


To make it easier to make comparisons we have created the following list of assumptions

  • You already have a TV
  • You do not have a decoder or existing internet connection
  • You live in an area with Fibre coverage. Wimax works too but we will not use it in this comparison
  • You will be watching HD content at 720p (1280 x 720 px)
  • You like US and UK TV Shows as well as documentaries
  • Some in your family want to watch Nollywood productions
  • You are a sport fanatic
  • You will be using a DStv Explora

The basic comparison

DStv$Online Streaming$
Monthly Subscription*83 (72+11)Monthly subscription**180( 155+2+12+10)
First Month Total348First Month Total280
Subsequent payments$83/monthSubsequent payments180

NB * DStv Premium bouquet plus PVR Access fee.

** ZOL Unlimited Fibre (Wimax 5 Mbps or even 3 Mbps works with 720p on demand viewing, streaming can be tricky though) $155, Uhurutv unlimited $10/month (Sports and Documentaries), Netflix HD $12/month (TV Shows) and iRokoTv $2/month (African Movies)

Is this right?

Well yes and no. Assuming you are just an ordinary citizen who does not need an internet connection this would be the correct assessment. But if you really take time to think about it, for most tech people this is not really true. To really come up with accurate figures you will need to know all about sunk, unavoidable and relevant and irrelevant costs.

Sunk and unavoidable costs

A sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred e.g you have already paid your internet connection due to the nature of your work. An unavoidable cost is a cost that will have to be incurred regardless of whatever decision you make e.g. you will pay for an/some sort of internet connection whatever decision you make.

Relevant vs Irrelevant costs

A relevant cost is a cost that is affected by the current decision i.e an avoidable cost. Irrelevant costs refer to sunk and unavoidable costs.

Factoring these into your decision

Let us say you operate an internet business from your home office and have a ZOL Wimax business grade connection for which you pay $115/month. You also own a DStv Decoder and are a DStv premium subscriber paying $83 a month. Should you consider online streaming or not?

The costing process

DSTV$Streaming Option$
ZOL Subscription115--
First Month Payment198First Month Payment280
Subsequent Months198Subsequent Months180

Like in the case above we are assuming a set top box which would cost you around $100. In this case, streaming is actually cheaper! The moral of this exercise is that you should dig deeper whenever you are making financial decisions. Look at your own case carefully, being diligent to not only look at all the involved costs but their nature as well.

Qualitative factors

Sometimes the financial calculations show a tie (what we call an indiferent position in finance) or there are immaterial differences in the final cost comparisons in which case you will need to look at qualitative factors

For example, online streaming gives you the ability to binge watch shows, change your content providers,  shop online, social media etc. With DStv, you can carry the decoder with you if you are going on vacation without calling a technician. You also do not have to contend with shaping.

Now that we are at the end the article, I feel the need to repeat what I said at the beginning : Financial Mathematics if a fickle. We have only provided one case study above but I hope you get the picture.

Image credit: Htxt Africa

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13 thoughts on “Is DStv cheaper than online streaming in Zimbabwe? – Here’s why that cost comparison isn’t so simple.

  1. I am trying to sign up for a free trial with Netflix and it won’t accept my ecocash debit card details. Says check with bank if it has international access? Has this now been stopped by Ecocash?? What is 2017 going to bring us? I feel we are re-entering 2007 and not 2017.

    1. Are you generating a virtual card? You are supposed to generate a virtual card and use the provided details when making online payments. As far as I know the physical card is for in store payments and ATM withdrawals.

      1. Thx, but my concern is my Ecocash Card not having International Access. I only want to register card for my free trial not make a payment. My friend could a few months back. Has Ecocash now stopped this on their cards? If so what is the point having one now.

        1. Generate a VCN, like Garikai explained. That’s how the EcoCash MasterCard system works

        2. Also it is best NOT to use physical card, as the Virtual Card expires every fortnight, and after trial they can not take money from your card as it will have expired

  2. i’d recommend showmax as an alternative to netflix. i’ve been using it a few weeks now, and i find the range better than netflix tbh.

    aside from live sport, online streaming has given me better value in the long term… there really is nothing like on demand viewing

    1. Thx, but my concern is my Ecocash Card not having International Access. Has Ecocash now stopped this on their cards? If so what is the point having one now.

    2. You are right in many ways Showmax eclipses Netflix’s offerings and would reduce the cost of streaming by about $10 as you might not need Uhurutv or even iRoku.

  3. Can you help me understand data usage, I’m currently using Telone home premier which gives me 50G monthly how long roughly will that last me watching these services

    1. You can watch around 10 movies with telone home premier.Just dont watch HD movies coz they are slow deplete data much faster.

  4. Capped internet is a headache I have never really enjoyed. It’s difficult to estimate how much mileage you will get from these services but this should help. 1 hour of streaming at 720p is about 900MB in size. Below is a very rough estimate of quality and 1 hour video size.

    240p ~ 150 MB
    360p ~ 250 MB
    480p ~ 400 MB
    720p ~ 800-900 MB
    1080p ~ 1.2 -1.4 GB
    NB 480p (SD the sort you get from most DSTV channel that are non HD) is a good compromise.

  5. May be techzim should look into this… Tried to make an online payment of 15$ using Barclays Visa and it was rejected…. Previously has no problems with online payments

  6. I think Showmax is great for VoD, also seems more responsive; Uhuru is the most direct alternative to DS because of the Live channels. Netflix is heavily watered down in this market and the experience is not as great compared to their US offering.

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