Showmax: A streaming revolution in Africa


Source (Showmax)

A streaming revolution is on the horizon for sub-Saharan Africa, with MultiChoice and Comcast’s jointly owned streaming service, Showmax, breaking ground in the SVOD market for the continent. 

Most recently, the South African pay TV provider announced it will be relaunching a revamped version of the streaming platform in markets across Africa in February and a new Showmax app from January 23. The company revealed Showmax 2.0 will launch with three plans including Showmax Entertainment, Showmax Entertainment Mobile and a Premier League mobile streaming offering.

The African streaming brand has reached significant growth in the region following its debut in 2015 in more than 40 markets. Media research outfit and DTVE’s sister company Omdia reported Showmax earned approximately 1.7 million subscribers in 2022 alone, contributing to sub-Saharan Africa’s overall total of 4.5 million online video subscriptions during that year.

Its mobile-focused streaming strategy has certainly been the bedrock of Showmax’s growth in emerging markets across Africa, where it was a pioneer in introducing a mobile tier across the continent, along with rival Netflix and Britbox. Omdia notes that due to the underdeveloped broadband infrastructure across a number of countries excluding territories such as South Africa, mobile subscriptions are significantly high in Africa. The mobile-only streaming model is a key element in the strategy of SVODs in Africa, tackling the streaming obstacles where the online market and general economy is not yet as advanced as compared to the West.

In Omdia research focused on the online video market in sub-Saharan Africa, analyst Samuel Nkwam says, “As mobile and fixed internet connectivity continues to improve, smartphone adoption is increasing and OTT operators continue to adapt their offerings to mobile-first markets through initiatives such as mobile-only subscription tiers.”

Despite being a market leader in sub-Saharan Africa, Showmax faces increasing competition from global streaming powerhouse Netflix. Subscription numbers are continuing to rise in the region, predicted by Omdia to climb up to 2.2 million subscribers by 2028. The Showmax 2.0 launch will not see a price hike for subscriptions, and last year Netflix cut the prices of its subscription plans for a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nkwam explains in another Omdia report that “Showmax has been going head-to-head with rival Netflix in South Africa, and Omdia forecasts that its subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa will exceed Netflix’s by 2027. Although other nations in the subregion are not unscathed by the harsh macroeconomic landscape, subscriber and revenue numbers did grow in 2022, offsetting weaker performance in South Africa.”

He adds, “Netflix has faced mounting pressure from shareholders due to stagnating subscriber growth in its more mature markets. Still, it has seen rapid growth in Africa and is second only to Showmax in subscriptions in the sub-Sahara region. Following its launch in sub-Saharan Africa in 2016, Netflix subscriptions had risen to almost 1.6m by the end of 2022.”

However, where Showmax outperforms Netflix in Africa is with its live sports portfolio. As part of the relaunch, the Showmax Premier League package will live stream all 380 games to mobile users. MultiChoice also recently acquired the broadcasting rights to the Africa Cup of Nations for its South African TV network SuperSport avoiding a blackout on the channel, after previously failing to reach a deal with the AFCON rights-holder New World TV. All 52 matches from the tournament will also available for Showmax Pro and Showmax Pro Mobile subscribers. One thing that attracts consumers is live sports, especially attractive offerings of prominent sporting events such as the Premier League, World Cups or other international high-profile tournaments. These are guaranteed to draw huge audiences and see a boost across subscriptions which can deliver significant revenue for companies.

“Sports content strategy has also been a challenge for streaming platforms in the region (sub-Saharan Africa) due to high content acquisition costs and the limited availability of marketable sports rights available,” says Nkwam. “Showmax has a competitive advantage here and has been able to overcome this hurdle, as a subsidiary of MultiChoice Group.”

It is clear mobile-tier streaming will be the driving force behind the streaming revolution in Africa. However growth of the SVOD footprint will continue to be stifled until we see the online market and the overall broadband network further develop in the region. So at least for now, pay TV will remain king across Africa.

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