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ShowMax aims to crack Kenya's VoD dilemma

ShowMax aims to crack Kenya's VoD dilemma

Subscription Video-on-Demand (VoD) service ShowMax is hoping to increase the number of internet TV service subscribers in Kenya with the debut launch of a two-tier service for watching TV shows and movies online.

In collaboration with telecommunications services provider Safaricom, Showmax subscribers can opt for a Premium tier service, offering a full range of international and local content, or for a mobile-first data-optimised product that is focused predominantly on local content, and can be paid for using M-Pesa.

Both tiers allow subscribers to either stream content or to download up to 25 shows to watch offline. Downloaded content is valid for 30 days. Data usage is charged separately and works with a customer's existing data bundles, according to ShowMax.

The VoD service's John Kotsaftis said: "We don't believe in one-size-fits-all solutions. Kenya has different needs and tastes to other countries and deserves something designed specifically for Kenyans. ShowMax is the first international internet TV service that's priced in KSh and paid for using M-PESA. It's the first to put strong emphasis on local content including having sports clips. It's the first to be optimised for mobile usage, reducing data consumption by as much as 75%. And it's the first to deliver all of this at an affordable price point."

Speaking about the consumer uptake of VoD services, Kotsaftis added, "Kenya has all the right ingredients: tech-savvy consumers, rapidly expanding internet connectivity, and an appetite for quality TV shows and movies. So why hasn't internet TV taken off yet?

"It doesn't matter how good your service is if you don't first solve the data challenge for customers, particularly for the majority of people who rely on mobile internet. That's why we designed data-saving features and the ability to download content into ShowMax from the outset. With these features and a strong focus on local content, we think ShowMax will finally crack the internet TV model in Kenya."

Mobile-driven TV

Stephen Watson, MD of digital entertainment and VoD services company Discover Digital, says dramatic changes are taking place both in the broadcasting business and the mobile industry space.

He believes free-to-air and pay-TV channels are losing their appeal as viewers demand their own choice in what they watch, and when.

Sports rights holders are also starting to engage fans directly through live offerings or digital rights distribution deals to OTT players, says Watson, who adds that mobile service providers must add value to their voice and data packages by giving customers extra services and content.

"Device manufacturers are looking for key differentiators to continue to engage consumers post the point of purchases. We live in an era where disruptive technologies are changing consumer habits, particularly with the early adopters being the Millennials and Generation Z. The battle between the OTT players, the device manufacturers and the networks as to who will ultimately own the customer is well underway."

"This sets the scene for an explosion of mobile video on demand content," says Watson. "In sub-Saharan Africa, connectivity is improving rapidly and the number of smartphones in use is surging, with over 525 million smartphone connections expected by 2020. For many in the region, the smartphone is the only internet access device and the preferred way to consume digital content such as music, TV, movies and educational material."

Discover Digital's MD quotes Deloitte as saying that a third of those who have smartphones look at them every five minutes, with 54% of South Africans and 52% of Nigerians already using their smartphones to watch short videos.

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