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How Showmax Plans to “Change the Game for Streaming in Africa,” Turbo-Charged by NBCU

Eight and a half years after its launch, African streaming service Showmax is ready for a bigger spotlight on the continent thanks to a relaunch powered by a joint venture with Comcast and NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform, new pricing, mobile-only offers, as well as an expanded content lineup, including popular sports and more originals to offer up the best of African and international programming. Showmax’s goals: “to change the game for streaming in Africa” and to be the “number one streamer in Africa.”

African pay-TV giant MultiChoice Group launched Showmax in South Africa before expanding to 44 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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The relaunch on Monday, Feb. 12 comes just before the end of MultiChoice’s fiscal year, which wraps up in March, and after Amazone Prime Video signaled it would stop ordering new originals in Africa.

It also comes nearly a year after the company and Comcast’s entertainment arm NBCUniversal and its London-based European pay-TV unit Sky struck a partnership. The partners unveiled the deal to form the new Showmax group, 70 percent owned by MultiChoice and 30 percent owned by NBCUniversal, vowing that it would “bring some of the world’s best content and technology to streaming customers” across sub-Saharan Africa “at a time when Africa is approaching an inflection point in terms of broadband connectivity and affordability.”

This January, Showmax said that “core to the success” of its streaming ambitions is a “technical platform that is robust and built to scale,” namely the Peacock platform, which the companies say is now used in more than 70 countries. “The best-in-class Peacock platform was designed from day one to deliver an exceptional experience for both on-demand and live content, including the biggest live sporting events,” Patrick Miceli, executive vp and chief technology officer for NBCUniversal Direct-to-Consumer and Peacock, told THR. “Peacock’s global streaming platform is bringing a world-class product experience to millions of customers across 44 African markets.”

“To support this launch, our teams of engineers across our company worked to enhance key features and optimize overall platform performance, reliability, stability, and security,” he also told THR. “We spent a year partnering with the team from MultiChoice and Showmax while spending time in Africa to build a better understanding of how people were currently using Showmax, how we could improve the experience, and what users feel is most important to them in a streaming service.”

It was apparent early on that “we were going to need to adapt our platform and experience to ensure we were meeting the needs of the Showmax audience in Africa,” Miceli recalls. “First and foremost was ensuring we delivered the highest-quality experience while recognizing the diverse range of devices, quality of connectivity and payment preferences. We’ve worked hard to optimize the app’s performance and video quality, especially under low bandwidth conditions and network instability,” to optimize the user experience “across a range of devices and bandwidth conditions.”

That work included “hundreds of optimizations, including significantly reducing the size of our mobile app,” the executive explained. His team also explored “new ways to subscribe, whether through flash terminals, pre-paid gift cards or bundling models,” working closely with payment partners to offer “more diverse” subscription options.

Of course, content is also key to the relaunch. “With no fewer than 21 new Showmax originals launching in February alone, there will be more than 1,300 hours of Showmax originals produced in the coming year, representing a significant 150 percent increase in production output compared to the year before,” the streamer highlighted. It didn’t detail to how much of a spending increase that amounts.

The launch lineup includes adaptations of two local bestsellers: Angela Makholwa’s serial killer thriller Red Ink and international co-production Catch Me A Killer, based on the memoir of Micki Pistorius, South Africa’s first serial killer profiler.

New shows also include high-school drama Youngins, university drama Wyfie, crime drama Koek, comedy Ekhaya Backpackers and Nigerian documentary series Free Men.

African streamer Showmax
African streamer Showmax

Reality fare at launch include Widows Unveiled, which follows the widows of “prominent people in the entertainment industry,” Sadau Sisters, following Nigerian star Rahama and her sisters, Chocolate Kings, about male exotic dancers, Ghanaian dating show What Will People Say, and a new season of The Real Housewives of Durban.

Complementing Showmax’s African content slate is international programming. The partnership with Comcast’s NBCU and Sky guarantees the streamer “an ongoing supply of the world’s most popular titles from the media giant’s renowned brands, including Universal Pictures, Focus Features, NBC, Peacock, DreamWorks Animation and Telemundo,” it emphasized. Among the film lineup are the likes of the latest installment in the hit Fast franchise, Fast X, and Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City. Among the TV series are NBC procedural The Irrational starring Jesse L. Martin and Peacock comedy Killing It with Craig Robinson.

Showmax is also touting content from such other Hollywood giants as Paramount Global (Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning and Halo season 2 in February), and Warner Bros. Discovery’s HBO (new seasons of House of the Dragon, The Last of Us, True Detective, The White Lotus).

Overall, Showmax said it will “continue to draw titles from Banijay, BBC, eOne, Fremantle, HBO, ITV, Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. Discovery, among others, so viewers can expect international titles on Showmax to radically increase this year.”

Among its sports offerings, English Premier League soccer games are at the heart of Showmax’s portfolio. Its following is big in many parts of the world, including in Africa, particularly in Nigeria. Helping its appeal is the fact that the league features African stars and players who are the children of African or Afro-Caribbean families.

No surprise then that Showmax is offering what it describes as “the world’s first standalone Premier League plan for mobile, with all 380 games offered live on Showmax Premier League for just 69 rand ($3.60) a month.”

With Showmax calling affordability “key” to its ambitions, its two other plans in Africa are Showmax Entertainment on mobile for 39 rand ($2.04) a month at launch and the previously available Showmax Entertainment plan, whose monthly price falls from 99 rand ($5.18) to 89 rand ($4.65) per month.

“There are currently just over 450 million smartphones in the hands of individuals across Africa … and more than 250 million avid (soccer) lovers on the continent,” Showmax CEO Marc Jury explained the opportunity in a recent announcement. “Showmax Premier League is a game-changing product that gives individuals a ticket to the (soccer) they love, wherever they are, on the device they always have with them, at a price that’s impossible not to love.”

Showmax is also the first streaming service in Africa to make mobile downloads available to allow offline viewing via a refreshed app.

Jury is bullish and said he is ready to take the streamer to the next level. “We have got amazing content on an incredible platform at the best price point,” he told THR. “So we have all the ingredients to succeed. We have got very, very, very big ambitions to grow and scale this business across the continent.”

The streaming partnership between an African powerhouse and a Hollywood giant expects to leverage their know-how, content, resources, and the best of both worlds. “Nobody understands Africa like we do,” MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela said recently. “Showmax is putting the continent first with a powerful streaming service that will revolutionize streaming in Africa in 2024.”

'Catch Me A Killer'
‘Catch Me A Killer’

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