MultiChoice has launched a new service called Showmax Pro, a streaming service designed to serve on-demand streaming and live TV. The platform has been on the pipeline since June last year as part of efforts by MultiChoice to challenge the presence of Netflix in Nigeria and exert dominance in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The company rolled out the streaming platform in Nigeria and Kenya on Tuesday, and said it will subsequently get to other countries in four to eight weeks.
“This is the biggest thing we’ve done at Showmax in the five years since we first launched. Africa is an incredibly diverse continent, so offering a single monolithic product may not be the best solution. Our approach is to standardize where we can and tailor where we need to,” Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of the Connected Video division of MultiChoice, told Forbes contributor Toby Shapshak.
“That’s why you’ll see different local content on Showmax in Nigeria than you will in Kenya, and South Africa’s content is different again.”
Over the past one year, Ekdahl and his team had worked to localize the contents and price of the Showmax platform according to country. In Nigeria, full Showmax Pro costs $16.25 (N6,300) and $8.26 (N32,00) for Showmax Pro Mobile. In Kenya, Showmax Pro and Showmax Pro Mobile will sell for $19.68 (Ksh 2,100) and $9.84 (Ksh 1,050) respectively.
“Payment methods and partnership have to be localized, but meanwhile the need for a mobile-only option and the desire for great international sporting content is universal,” Ekdahl said.
This is coming a few days after the news that DStv is considering dropping the purchase of EPL and Champions League rights in Nigeria. The packages on the Showmax platform include live football matches from the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, the Spanish La Liga and South Africa’s Premier Soccer League among other sports events.
Since 2014, MultiChoice has been pushing to create a profitable presence in the streaming industry. It launched Showmax in 2015 in a bid to foster the growth of its streaming services. But it was stalled by a lot of factors that included the use of mobile phone and broadband services which were low in quality compared to the capacity needed to sustain streaming services.
This among other factors discouraged MultiChoice from pursuing its goals on streaming. But in 2016, when Netflix showed up, MultiChoice knew it had to up its game on the streaming line or get eaten up by the US company.
Two years after Netflix was launched in Africa, in 2016, it gained around 400,000 users, mostly in South Africa, MultiChoice’s country of origin. And to instill more fear in MultiChoice, Netflix announced a budget of $8 billion for original contents targeting the African region among other places. Showmax Pro will hopefully keep MultiChoice subscribers within its ecosystem by inserting sports in the digital product. Provided that happens, a double play of holding off Netflix online while giving DStv set boxes room to grow offline may materialize. Provided MultiChoice controls live sports, Africans may not have no choice, and that means subscribing to both Netflix and Showmax Pro/DStv at the same time, as the products are not clear substitutes to each other.
Ever since then, Netflix has gone ahead to claim more contents and viewers in the continent. In Nigeria, it has secured exclusive rights to popular Nollywood movies, including Genevieve Nnaji’s Lion Heart.
It was a daring challenge that MultiChoice accepted with unflinching manliness. However, in 2018, MultiChoice’s majority shareholder, Naspers announced it would divest from the company through an IPO which was completed in February 2019. The absence of Naspers introduced a financial vacuum that MultiChoice knew it needed to fill, and it fueled its need to push the streaming services.
MultiChoice has been working to fix the lapses that had stymied the growth of the streaming services, from upgrading the platform from offering on-demand video services to live TV, Multichoice has also addressed the issue of Showmax device friendliness. The company said it has worked on the platform to consume less bandwidth.
“We have been adapting the service for the data connectivity constrains on the continent and focusing on the most-used viewing devices,” the company said.
But these upgrades and efforts aren’t just about competition with Netflix, it is suggesting that MultiChoice may be preparing to stop football services via the DStv in countries where the cost of rights is high. Techcabal noted that DStv is available only in a few African countries, and that limits the number of its viewership.
The DSTV is absent in Francophone Africa where OTT and Canal+ are dominant. But with the internet-based Showmax, there will be no limit to its reach. It appears that Multichoice is catching up with the trend of live streaming that many other companies, including Apple and Amazon have delved into. Though it is going to stir serious competition with Netflix, Showmax’s offers for live games will likely give MultiChoice an edge.
However, it is not clear what this will mean for DStv.