How an African Streaming Platform Outperformed Netflix in Market Dominance


Showmax dominates the market with an extensive collection of local content, strategic partnerships with Comcast and HBO, and exclusive rights to major football leagues worldwide.

  • Showmax has surpassed Netflix to emerge as the leading streaming platform in Africa, as Amazon’s Prime Video scales back its presence in the region.
  • The South African company’s success stems from its profound grasp of the local audience and strategic global partnerships.
  • Showmax faces a daunting task in achieving its target of 50 million subscribers and $1 billion in revenue within the next five years, as noted by analysts. They will need to overcome various obstacles to reach this ambitious goal.

In just eight years, a South African streaming company has surged ahead of Netflix to claim the title of Africa’s top choice for entertainment.

Showmax, a subsidiary of Africa’s leading entertainment company MultiChoice since 2015, boasted 2.1 million subscribers on the continent by the end of November 2023, surpassing Netflix’s 1.8 million, as reported by market research firm Omdia. Showmax’s market share surged to nearly 39% that month, while Netflix saw a decline to 33.5%.

Amazon Prime Video lagged behind its competitors with only 300,000 subscribers in November 2023, according to Omdia.

In the fiercely competitive African video streaming industry, Showmax has emerged as a frontrunner, surpassing Netflix. The market is a battleground for global corporations, major telecom companies, and various region-specific apps vying for consumer attention and revenue. Prime Video recently scaled back its Africa and Middle East operations, ceasing the production of original content in January.

The company excelled in setting itself apart from competitors by demonstrating a profound comprehension of local preferences and offering a thoughtfully curated blend of content tailored to African interests.

Showmax has strategically collaborated with industry giants like HBO and Comcast to deliver premium English-language content to its audience. By fostering close ties with local African creators, the platform ensures a diverse range of high-quality entertainment. Additionally, Showmax offers exclusive streaming access to the English Premier League through a specialized subscription package.

In recent years, Showmax has significantly prioritized local content, a strategy that film industry investor and tech entrepreneur Jason Nkoju believes is yielding long-term benefits. Nkoju pointed out that this focus on local content is crucial for success in the streaming industry, emphasizing that global streaming giants may need to reevaluate their approach to cater to the preferences of the mass market.

When filmmaker Tobechukwu Ejiofor pitched a documentary idea to Showmax executives, they not only embraced his concept but also actively collaborated with him to refine it, as disclosed by Ejiofor in an interview with Rest of World. This exemplifies the company’s deep engagement with African creators. Showmax further facilitated a connection between Ejiofor and fellow filmmaker Daro Umaigba, who shared a similar research interest. A meeting orchestrated by Showmax in Lagos resulted in the duo deciding to join forces, leading to the creation of “Freemen.” This docuseries explores how the Igbos, one of Nigeria’s prominent ethnic groups, leverage a distinctive apprenticeship system to establish intergenerational prosperity. “Freemen” made its debut as a Showmax original earlier this month.

According to Ejiofor, the seamless working relationship with Showmax was attributed to their deep understanding of the cultural significance of the project. He highlighted that Showmax’s extensive knowledge of projects in production and strong connections with filmmakers greatly facilitated collaboration.

In 2020, Showmax secured exclusive licensing rights to stream HBO’s content in Africa, a significant boon for the company. Johannesburg-based designer Mpumelelo Cindi shared with Rest of World, “While I enjoy some local shows on Showmax, my top picks are Billions and Curb Your Enthusiasm.” This strategic move has greatly enhanced Showmax’s content offering in the region.

In March 2023, Comcast, the parent company of media giants like Universal Pictures, NBC, Peacock, Sky, DreamWorks Animation, and Telemundo, acquired a 30% stake in Showmax through NBCUniversal. This strategic move provided the African company with cutting-edge technology, financial stability in a competitive market, and access to a plethora of blockbuster English-language content from renowned studios such as the BBC, Lionsgate, ITV, Paramount, Sony, and Warner Bros.

Comcast’s involvement is set to bolster Showmax’s standing, according to CEO Marc Jury in an interview with Rest of World. He expressed that this partnership will facilitate increased investments in local productions. By combining these local shows with a diverse range of international content and top-tier live sports, Jury is confident that Showmax is poised for success.

Showmax users in Nigeria and South Africa shared with Rest of World their strong preference for the platform over others due to its extensive collection of local and international content. According to Diseye Amy Naassin, a Lagos-based human resources manager, “Showmax provides a reminiscent experience of Nigerian TV, even without a television set.” Naassin particularly enjoys the reality TV programs available on Showmax, such as The Real Housewives and Big Brother Naija, alongside the engaging HBO series offered on the platform. Showmax’s original series, including acclaimed shows like Tali’s Joburg Diary and Donkerbos, further enhance its appeal to viewers.

Several users have expressed concerns about the user experience on the Showmax app.

Describing the app as a “disservice,” Lagos-based writer Toheeb Lanlehin shared with Rest of World that he primarily uses Showmax for specific content. He mentioned, “I forget that I have a Showmax subscription sometimes, and Netflix is still my go-to platform.” Lanlehin highlighted the issue of discoverability on the app, stating, “If you don’t know what you are looking for, you probably won’t find it.”

During an event held in Lagos in January, Opeoluwa Filani, the Country Manager for Nigeria at Showmax, announced the launch of a new app developed in partnership with Comcast. Filani highlighted that the app has successfully addressed previous issues, emphasizing its user-friendly interface that simplifies the process of discovering interesting movies through text search capabilities.

Showmax’s key strength lies in its association with parent company MultiChoice, renowned for its extensive network within the cable TV industry. Since 1995, MultiChoice has established a strong presence by developing TV channels across Africa, as highlighted by Marie Lora-Mungai, the founder of consulting firm Restless Global, in an interview with Rest of World.

Showmax benefits greatly from the extensive network of its parent company, MultiChoice.

MultiChoice’s dedication to developing the African video-streaming industry surpasses that of global competitors, as stated by Lora-Mungai. She emphasized that MultiChoice’s stronghold in the African market is undeniable, with teams present in various countries to gauge audience preferences. In countries like Zambia, MultiChoice even plays a pivotal role in sustaining the audiovisual sector. This unwavering commitment sets MultiChoice apart and solidifies its position as a key player in the African entertainment landscape.

In the 2023 financial year, MultiChoice recorded a revenue of 59.1 billion rand ($3.1 billion), with a significant portion attributed to its flagship direct broadcast satellite service, DStv. Over time, MultiChoice has effectively utilized its television business to bolster the growth of Showmax, as noted by South African media analyst and TV critic, Thinus Ferreira. According to Ferreira, “DStv’s profitability enables MultiChoice to promote Showmax through strategic advertising efforts, raising awareness about the platform and its diverse content offerings.”

MultiChoice executives, with their wealth of experience in the industry, are primarily responsible for commissioning most of Showmax’s content. In contrast to platforms like Netflix in Africa, Amazon Prime Video, Disney, and Apple TV+, MultiChoice doesn’t face the same learning curve. Ferreira highlighted this advantage, noting that they have already mastered the process. Despite turning down an acquisition offer from Canal+, MultiChoice remains committed to investing an additional $89 million in Showmax.

At the start of the year, Showmax unveiled an ambitious goal of reaching 50 million subscribers and generating $1 billion in revenue within the next five years.

Experts suggest that for the company to achieve its goal, it must surpass expectations in various areas, such as its pricing strategy and maintaining a positive relationship with Comcast. In 2024, Showmax significantly reduced its subscription fee by almost 50%.

Showmax is focusing on increasing its subscriber numbers as a priority to attract investor interest. Following the footsteps of Netflix, Showmax may consider raising its prices in the future. According to Ferreira, Showmax cannot sustain its current low prices indefinitely, but leveraging them now is essential for driving subscriber growth.

Lora Mungai emphasized the importance for Showmax to strategically manage the potential risks associated with its partnership with Comcast to ensure long-term success.

In the realm of global partnerships, navigating the intricacies can be challenging,” she noted, pointing out that divergent work cultures may spark conflicts. The question remains whether Comcast truly comprehends the nuances of operating in Africa and possesses the requisite patience to surmount the region’s obstacles.




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