Africa’s biggest media company will fight Netflix for control of the global streaming market

Posted By on 30th November 2015

When Naspers, the South African media conglomerate, launched its video-on-demand (VOD) service Showmax earlier this year, the assumption was this was an attempt at keeping out Netflix. The US-based streaming platform aims to expand its service globally in 2016, including in Africa’s second-largest economy.

But it seems like this was just the opening salvo for Africa’s biggest media company. Naspers is reportedly expanding its three-month-old platform beyond the continent. The aim is to go global and challenge Netflix everywhere else, too, according to a report by Bloomberg. Naspers is hoping to attract potentially 15 million subscribers in North America, Europe, and Australasia.

The company, which already owns one of the most popular pay-TV outlet in Africa, has always believed it can compete beyond the continent. “We’ve never limited our ambition to South Africa,” Bob van Dijk, the chief executive of Naspers, said in August.

Naspers’ expansion strategy will be boosted by the partnership it hasreportedly agreed with Samsung to have Showmax available on its smart TVs. Samsung controls almost a third of the global smart TV market. That’s a potential audience of about 60 million people.

But the manner in which Showmax aims to distinguish itself from Netflix appears to be around offering content that has yet to be the natural purview of the American platform. While it will continue to stock shows from the likes of CBS, the BBC and Time Warner, an area of strength for Netflix, it aims to show Africa-specific content as well, according to Bloomberg.

On this point, it has a clear edge over Netflix, at least for the moment. Through its MultiChoice outlet, the pan-African pay-TV platform, the company has access to significant content from across the region. This could help it attract the sizable African diaspora to its platform, which is estimated to be about 30 million people worldwide.

Naspers has shown itself to be astute in playing at a global level, particularly in emerging markets. It licensed the technology infrastructure for Showmax from the Middle Eastern VOD platform Icflix that specializes in Bollywood and Arabic content. It also invested early in the Chinese internet giant Tencent and the Indian platfrom Ibibo, one of the country’s largest travel companies. With Showmax, Naspers—a $65-billion business and Africa’s biggest company by market value—is making another bet at a global audience.

To compete, Netflix needs to up its game, too.

Correction: An earlier version of this post suggested that that Naspers had bought a stake in Icflix, the Middle Eastern VOD platform. That is not the case. They had merely licensed the technology infrastructure that helped in the launching of its own VOD outlet Showmax.

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