Netflix competitor ShowMax is now launching its streaming service in 36 African markets. ShowMax, the video streaming service from emerging markets media giant Naspers, costs $7.99 a month for unlimited viewing. It launched in South Africa in August 2015 and now is taking the “largest subscription video on-demand catalog on the continent” to the rest of Africa, says Forbes contributor Toby Shapshak.
ShowMax making progress despite Netflix’s entry in Africa
Barron Ernst, ShowMax’s chief product officer, told Shapshak that they had pretty much doubled the number of active subscribers in the first four months of 2016, and this is despite Netflix’s entry into Africa.
Ernst said in Africa, having the most comprehensive content catalog is not enough, but streaming services should help their subscribers find that content as well. Ernst said that they have put a large amount of effort into improving the content discovery process and refining their recommendations engine. Ernst added that they have seen an increase in views-per-user of more than 15%.
Since ShowMax’s launch, it has faced many challenges. Ernst told Shapshak that to tackle some video streaming issues, ShowMax has had to build its own content distribution network over the last eight months. They had to move fast because customers are not really forgiving when it comes to the quality of the video. The engineering team has been working to support Chromecast, Apple TV, and Airplay, said Ernst. Now ShowMax provides services in 65 countries.
Localization differentiates it from Netflix
ShowMax’s catalog includes around 15,000 TV show episodes and movies, and the company adds almost 10,000 hours of content each month. Ernst believes localization is the main differentiator between it and Netflix. He says that as a whole, localization of a service is crucial, along with local content. Apart from these two, platform modifications to cater to local needs, local payment options and partnerships with local ISPs are also critical for success.
Ernst told Shapshak that high-speed internet connectivity is not ubiquitous in South Africa yet, and because of this, they had a really positive response to the introduction of downloads. Prepaid vouchers have proven to be highly popular as well given the low level of credit card penetration.
“I’d go as far as to say that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ model is a tough sell in this part of the world, and you do need to take local conditions into account in order to really sink your teeth into the market,” Ernest says.