In the dynamic world of streaming entertainment, a seismic shift seems to be underway on the African continent. South Africa’s homegrown streaming platform, Showmax, is steadily gaining ground on the global titan, Netflix. Experts are asking: Could Showmax become Africa’s undisputed streaming king?

    The Rise of Showmax

    Showmax, owned by Multichoice, boasts several factors fuelling its impressive rise:

    • Firstly, it offers a deeply localised content library. African audiences find a treasure trove of shows and movies that resonate with their cultures and experiences – a feature often missing from its international competitor.
    • Secondly, Showmax provides a strong emphasis on live sports streaming. This plays a crucial role in attracting African viewers who are passionate about soccer, rugby, and other major sporting events.
    • Thirdly, Showmax caters to budget-conscious consumers with tailored and frequently cheaper subscription plans, offering exceptional value in a price-sensitive market.

    According to a study by market research firm Omdia, Showmax had 2.1 million subscribers in Africa by December 2023, as compared to 1.8 million for Netflix. Also, in November 2023, African subscribers to Showmax grew to 39% while Netflix experienced a drop in subscribers to 33.5%.

    Netflix’s African Arrival

    Netflix made its grand entrance into the African continent in 2016, launching simultaneously in 54 countries. This bold expansion marked a significant step in the company’s global ambitions, recognizing the enormous potential within Africa’s diverse and ever-growing online viewership.

    Early Challenges

    Netflix’s initial foray into Africa was not without its difficulties. Limited internet infrastructure in many regions made consistent streaming a challenge. Also, its primarily Western-focused content library initially lacked the local flavour to establish a strong connection with African audiences. Additionally, subscription prices proved a barrier for many potential subscribers, given the economic contexts across the continent.

    Adaptations and Growth

    While Netflix undoubtedly maintains global dominance, the company faces specific hurdles within the African market. Higher subscription costs, often seen as out of touch with local economic realities, pose an obstacle. Moreover, Netflix’s content library, though vast, prioritizes global appeal over culturally specific African content.


    Recognising these obstacles, Netflix has begun to adjust its strategy for the African market.  Increased investment in African-produced shows and films, like “Queen Sono” and “Blood & Water”, signal a commitment to catering to local tastes. Netflix has also introduced mobile-only plans with lower pricing, improving accessibility for budget-conscious consumers.

    The Streaming Wars Heat Up

    The battle for African viewership is far from over. Netflix, aware of the growing competition, is making moves to adapt its service to better suit the African landscape. These include the introduction of more affordable mobile-only plans and a focused investment in commissioning original African content.

    The Future of Netflix in Africa

    While early growth may have been slower than anticipated, the potential of the African market remains vast.  As internet connectivity improves and disposable income rises, alongside more culturally resonant content, Netflix holds the potential to significantly increase its African subscriber base. The future promises fierce competition with local platforms like Showmax, ultimately serving to benefit audiences with diverse choices.

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    The African streaming market, while still relatively young, shows immense growth potential. As internet penetration increases and smartphones become more accessible, the demand for on-demand entertainment will only skyrocket. Whether Showmax will dethrone Netflix in the long run remains to be seen. Still, one thing is certain; the competition will benefit African viewers with greater choices and diverse content offerings.

    Disclaimer: It is important to note that while Showmax is undeniably growing, providing strong competition in Africa, this article offers a speculative look at the market. Actual subscriber numbers and future market share are complex and dynamic.