ShowMax a video on demand provider which was initially launched in South Africa in August 2015 is expanding to 36 additional countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Naspers-owned internet television provider service costs US$ 7.99 (about Kshs 800) per month for unlimited viewing.
The service includes a Kiswahili language section and a Nollywood section, as well as an African Film section that pulls together classic movies from across the continent.
The catalogue available to viewers across sub-Saharan Africa includes about 15 000 TV show episodes and movies, totaling almost 10 000 hours of viewing.
“We’ve been busy testing the service in key locations across the continent and optimising our delivery network. Perhaps more importantly, we’ve adapted our apps to address the needs of consumers in Africa, introducing features like downloads for viewing TV shows and movies when not connected.” Barron Ernst, Chief Product Officer for ShowMax says.
The product features developed by ShowMax to address connectivity constraints include adaptive bitrate streaming, download functionality, user-selectable download and streaming quality to limit data usage, and automatic size reduction of static pictures delivered to mobile devices.
According to the GSMA, around 160m connected smartphones were in use in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015, set to rise to more than 500m by 2020, ShowMax said.
“This explosive growth, combined with the increasing availability of Wi-Fi services, the roll-out of fibre to the home in urban centres and the roll-out of other high-speed fixed-mobile options, is driving the take-up of video-on-demand services,” it said.
The sub-Saharan countries that ShowMax has launched in are Botswana, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Reunion, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
ShowMax joins Netflix in this mass entry into new African territories and is a sign of big potential for market niche in this underexplored market that has long been dominated by smaller players like DSTV and Zuku. For viewers also this might be one big opportunity as this two war chests will have to deal with competition and so aspects such quality content and service acquisition will improve and not forgetting reduced TV charges, both of which are primary factors for VOD success.