South Africa-based Showmax is putting up a spirited fight with home advantage, drawing on a high level of local content in a race for African viewers with US streaming platform Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
By Conrad Onyango
The battle for streaming in Africa is narrowing to a three-horse race as key players ramp up investment in local content, tap top talent and enhance viewing experiences.
Market data from Digital TV Research puts Netflix in the lead with a projected 7.4 million subscribers, followed by MultiChoice-owned Showmax with 4.4 million subscribers and Amazon Prime Video with 3.14 million viewers.
By 2029, the research firm projects Africa will add 10 million new subscribers, pushing Video on demand subscriptions to 18 million, highlighting the growing popularity of streaming services on the continent.
“The subscription video on demand (SVOD) sector in anglophone Africa is evolving into a battle between Netflix and local player Showmax,” said Digital TV Research Principal Analyst, Simon Murray.
While Netflix is nearly doubling its subscriber base, Showmax will be more than tripling from a low-base, indicating a faster growth driven by ‘rich local content and sports rights,’ as well as the introduction of NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures and HBO content.
By the end of 2021, Netflix had an Africa Subscriber base of 2.6 million and is seen adding 3.4 million from the end of 2023 while Showmax, which had 861,000 subscribers at the end of 2021, will add nearly 3 million more to 2023 figures..
“Despite this fast growth, SVOD penetration will remain low, with only 7.7% of TV households paying for at least one subscription by 2029,” according to Digital TV Research.
Showmax parent company,MultiChoice Group recently launched DStv stream, a revamped version of the DStv App that enhances personal viewing experience for its huge subscriber base-especially sports fanatics.
Among the new features is the ability of subscribers to change soundtracks for live sports commentary to local languages based on the location of the viewer. Sporting fans also have dedicated league and tournament pages.
“From the initial launch of the first decoder to pioneering digital satellite TV and now with DStv Stream, what drives innovation for us, is providing our customers with the content they love, in the way that’s best for them,” said MultiChoice Kenya Head of Marketing, Ronald Baraka.
In its financial year 2023, MultiChoice announced its local content accounted for 50% general entertainment spend, surpassing its targets of a year earlier, highlighting an aggressive local content drive. The group’s local content library boasts of over 76,000 hours, with an annual production rise of 9%.
After cutting down its monthly subscription plan fees for some countries in Africa, Netflix has also embarked on aggressive local content development to attract more subscribers.
In July, it debuted, ‘Supa Team 4’, Africa’s first original animation series for kids to appear on the streaming platform.
Netflix’s ‘made in Africa’ offering includes movies, dramas, animations, TV show , documentaries and originals, featuring actors mostly from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa and exclusively targeting African audiences.
Amazon Prime Video also has its eyes on boosting its library of local originals and acquisitions, after the streaming platform hired former MultiChoice Executive, Gideon Khobane.
Khobane who has previously served as SuperSport International Chief Executive Officer and M-Net Director, was appointed Director of Prime Video Africa in July to oversee growth of the originals, acquisitions and product division.
Currently, Amazon Prime Video is particularly active in South Africa and Nigeria. It recently premiered two local comedy and drama originals – Last One Laughing, with versions for Nigeria and South Africa, and Gangs Of Lagos. Local acquisitions include Brotherhood and King Of Thieves.