While Showmax has started streaming HBO’s hit Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon in several African countries, South Africans have nowhere to watch the show legally other than DStv Premium.

The MultiChoice-owned streaming service put the first episode of House of the Dragon on Showmax in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria on 24 August 2022, two days after it premiered on DStv.

The subsequent episodes have been loaded every Monday, express from the US.

South Africans can still only catch it on DStv Premium via a decoder or online streaming, which costs between R699 and R839 per month.

For comparison, Showmax normally costs R99 per month for a standard subscription or R39 for a mobile package.

The omission of House of the Dragon from the Showmax South Africa library is curious, considering that HBO content — often loaded shortly after airing in the US — is one of the service’s biggest drawing cards.

Several South African Showmax subscribers have complained about its absence from the service.

One Twitter user even claimed that the company had put up a billboard advertising the series would be available on Showmax from 26 August 2022.

In response, Showmax said the show would only be available in South Africa “by the end of the year, with the exact date still to be announced”.

In other feedback, the company explained the series was not available on Showmax in South Africa due to “licencing agreements”.

One explanation is that MultiChoice had paid for broadcasting rights for House of the Dragon in South Africa, but not streaming rights.

However, that would not explain how the show is available on-demand via its DStv online streaming service.

The company told Memeburn the show’s release was being done with a “windowing strategy”, which is different from what it told Twitter users.

That would suggest MultiChoice is deliberately keeping it off Showmax in South Africa despite holding the rights to stream it.

MyBroadband asked MultiChoice why it has not made House of the Dragon available to stream on Showmax like it usually does with its other HBO shows. It did not provide feedback by the time of publication.

Data from the Broadcasting Research Council of South Africa (BRCSA) shared with TV journalist Thinus Ferreira revealed the show performed poorly on its DStv broadcast debut, drawing only a few thousand viewers.

By comparison, linear broadcasts of the premiere in the UK and US drew millions of viewers.

Although more people likely watched the show on DStv Catchup — online and via their decoders — MultiChoice would not respond to MyBroadband’s queries asking for feedback on this.

It’s unlikely that limiting the show to DStv Premium would draw many additional subscribers to the pay-TV service.

Given that the first season will have ten episodes, it will run over more than two months.

That means people would have to pay for three months of DStv to watch the entire season.

Paying between R2,100 and R2,500 for the sole purpose of watching a popular TV show would not make sense for most households.

Some people might piggyback on a friend or relative’s subscription, but that is also difficult after DStv limited the number of concurrent streams on all its packages to one.

Piracy threat

Streaming services have helped encourage people not to pirate TV shows and movies, making them simple and convenient to watch at a reasonable price.

But with no affordable way to watch the sought-after show legally, some South Africans might turn to an “old friend” — BitTorrent.

Game of Thrones was consistently one of the most-pirated TV shows in the world over its eight seasons, released between 2011 and 2019.

According to TorrentFreak, the show holds the record for the largest torrent swarm and episode releases boosted global piracy traffic.

House of the Dragon has already proved popular on torrent sites.

Its first episode was leaked a day before its premiere and downloaded hundreds of thousands of times within a few hours.