Inside the streaming battle for football fans on mobile phones

Africa’s streaming video-on-demand sector has evolved into a battle between two giants

In Summary

• Showmax has announced it will put an affordable Premier League viewing plan in viewers' pockets

• The South African streamer bets on a mobile-first focus to drive subscriptions and put it out of reach of Netflix, its big rival on the continent

A fan streams a match
A fan streams a match

After taking over Africa’s market mantle from US streaming giant Netflix in 2023, South Africa’s Showmax is turning to smartphones to tap into a wider pool of football fanatics.

The MultiChoice-owned streamer has introduced mobile-only subscriptions for Premier League content as part of a new package for its second iteration, Showmax 2.0, launching in mid-February.

“Showmax Premier League is a game-changing product that gives individuals a ticket to the football they love, wherever they are, on the device they always have with them, at a price that’s impossible not to love,” said Marc Jury, CEO of Showmax, in a statement.

Mobile subscribers will pay US$3.69 (R69) per month for ‘the world’s first standalone Premier League plan for mobile’, which is about 10 times cheaper than monthly DSTV subscriptions offering Premier League plans.

The Premier League plan offers all 380 Premier League games live from SuperSport, as well as fan content, talk shows, interviews and more, on mobile only, said Showmax on its new website.

“There are currently just over 450 million smartphones in the hands of individuals across Africa, and more than 250 million avid football lovers on the continent,” Jury said.

Premier League CEO Richard Masters said in the statement that Africa is incredibly important to the league and its clubs, with about 20 per cent of television audiences on any given match day coming from Africa.

Subscribers also have a choice to bundle up the Premier League with another new offering, the company's Entertainment plan, which includes hit international and trending local series and movies, kids’ shows and more on mobile only.

Alongside the Premier League, the new Showmax offering will introduce 21 new Showmax Originals that will see the streaming platform produce more than 1,300 hours of Showmax Originals by the close of 2024, representing a significant 150 per cent increase in production output compared to 2023.

It has scheduled a migration plan to its new app and website for existing customers, from January 23 to mid-February 2024.

Showmax’s new platform is built on NBC Universal's Peacock streaming platform, following a partnership with Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Sky in 2023.

The partnership has given Showmax fresh muscle to maintain its lead as Africa’s largest streaming platform in a very competitive market.

In November, tech research-based firm Omdia Research showed that Showmax accounted for 40 per cent of Africa’s streaming market, while Netflix controlled 35 per cent of the eyeballs.

Research firm Digital TV said last year that Africa’s streaming video-on-demand sector has evolved into a battle between Netflix and local player Showmax.

The two are expected to play a significant role in attracting 10 million new subscribers on the continent by the end of 2030.

By the end of the review period, the African market is projected to have a total of 18 million streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) subscribers.

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