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  • Streaming wars loom as Showmax readies for Netflix battle

Streaming wars loom as Showmax readies for Netflix battle

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 16 Aug 2023
Yolisa Phahle, CEO of Showmax.
Yolisa Phahle, CEO of Showmax.

MultiChoice’s Showmax video streaming platform has set its sights on relaunching its offerings in partnership with Peacock, a subsidiary of US-based streaming services giant NBCUniversal.

So says Yolisa Phahle, CEO of Showmax, in an e-mail interview with ITWeb, as the streaming platform readies to mark its eighth birthday on Saturday.

In March, MultiChoice partnered with Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Sky to launch a streaming service targeting the African continent.

With this partnership, Showmax is looking to take US-based streaming service Netflix head-on.

Under the deal, the new Showmax group will be 70% owned by MultiChoice and 30% by NBCUniversal. In Nigeria, NBCUniversal will hold an indirect 23.7% stake in the local subsidiary.

Powered by Peacock’s technology, “Showmax subscribers will have access to an extensive premium content portfolio, bringing African audiences the best of local and international programming,” says MultiChoice.

Mounting pressure

MultiChoice, which used to enjoy the lion’s share in the local pay-TV space, continues to face mounting competition from international streaming services, such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime, among others.

The pay-TV operator has also seen its premium subscriber base dwindling over the years, amid growth of video-on-demand players on the African continent.

MultiChoice is also enticing customers to its streaming services after hiking the prices of its DStv packages.

Over the years, the video entertainment company has called for a “level playing field” with the international video-on-demand players it competes with on South African turf.

The number of African video-on-demand subscribers will grow to reach a total of 18 million by 2029, according to a new report by Digital TV Research.

It adds that Netflix is predicted to have 7.55 million subscribers by 2029, adding 3.4 million from the number anticipated by the end of 2023. Second-placed Showmax is expected to have 4.4 million paying subscribers by 2029 – nearly three million more than in 2023.

“We’re very excited about our upcoming Showmax relaunch on the Peacock streaming platform, which will happen before the end of the financial year. This is a big change that is going to bring many benefits to our customers,” Phahle says.

In its financial results for the year ended 31 March, MultiChoice said paying Showmax subscribers increased by an average growth rate of 26% year-on-year for the last four years.

Phahle notes streaming is on the rise across the continent and Showmax’s audience continues to show strong growth in all its key markets.

“Showmax Originals is growing exponentially, in addition to a wealth of local programming from MultiChoice. When you add the English Premier League, brought to Showmax by SuperSport, and international shows from the likes of NBC, Sky, HBO, Sony and many others, it’s a world-leading streaming offering,” she comments.

Showmax Pro streams SuperSport content in Africa, including the most watched football league in the world, England’s Premier League.

“This is a key selling point on a football-mad continent and helped Showmax Pro more than double its subscriber base in the last financial year, according to the June 2023 MultiChoice results,” Phahle says.

Data constraints

Data costs have been cited as one of the reasons for the slow uptake of video streaming services in South Africa.

To address this challenge, Phahle says: “We have focused on features like data-saving settings and the ability to download shows to watch offline.”

According to Phahle, Showmax was the first streaming service in Africa to launch a mobile-only plan. “This has been well-received by our audience. We believe that as internet costs become more affordable, streaming will continue to rise.”

Beyond data, Phahle states that electrification and smartphone penetration are both still challenges but there is real growth in all these areas.

“The price of data is falling, access to electricity is increasing. Being able to take payments in the way our customers want to pay has also been a massive focus area, and we will continue to make sure more people can pay in more ways that suit them.

“Showmax is clearly differentiated from the international streamers by our local content and football, a strategy which has seen Showmax consistently deliver subscriber growth ahead of target.

“Africa’s population is growing at three times the global average – an unrivalled growth opportunity – and is expected to double in size by 2050 to around 2.5 billion; likely to be a quarter of the world’s population. Combined with growing internet connectivity off the lowest base in the world, this gives us an incredible opportunity,” she concludes.

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