DStv, Showmax, Netflix, and the battle for the Nigerian eyeballs

by Ladi Ogunseye

Competition drives innovation and accountability; factors lacking in the Nigerian telecommunication market. And, when you realise that competition is good for both consumers and businesses, you wonder how DStv’s dominance in the market enables the possibility of supernormal innovation.

DStv’s overwhelming presence in the market is such that every other streaming network has to abide by its rules and follow its steps. Before now, it was one satellite channel, and today it is still the same thing with DStv – and you know it is already time to shake things up a bit.

Who remembers ABG communications who pioneered the microwave multi-channel distribution system (MMDS) wireless cable TV system in Africa? Multichoice’ advent surely overshadowed its talkability.

Nigerians looked for something new and refined, and MNet offered that on a platter of gold. For many Nigerians, just being able to watch the latest movies, series, dramas, sports, news, and cartoons was enough to pay the price tag the company demanded. Many DSTv subscribers were okay with their continuous price hike, policy change, and even the crude stoppage of the monthly banquet to them, as long as they saw even half of what they liked.

Fast forward to 2020, they are in a competition. We have Iroko TV streaming African movies across Nigeria and other West African states. As if that was not a competition, Netflix came knocking, giving subscribers the latest – not seen in cinemas – movies, and series; all at an affordable price.

The largest online stream on-demand was now contending with Multichoice. The fun part, you could watch from anywhere you are, any time, and choose your own preference.

Now that’s what competition is all about. However, DStv has managed to hold their grounds despite streaming companies that have paraded themselves in the market.

A bit of history into Africa’s entertainment giant

Multichoice, a brainchild of Naspers, is indeed the most valuable entertainment business brand in Africa.

Multichoice was founded in 1995 and introduced to the African market in 1996. Its outright acceptance and the excitement saw it grow to be the largest Pay-TV service across 15 countries.

Since it embraced digitalisation, the company is available to watch in over 50 countries and outside the borders of the continent. It has also enjoyed immense success, as seen by the numerous satellite dishes that adorn houses in the cities and rural areas.

With over two decades in the pay-TV business, it has put in place adequate infrastructure across the continent to enable it broadcast original content for consumers of all ages. Besides, it has partnered with several broadcasting corporations home and abroad to bring the best in movies, sports, and music across the sub-Saharan, and many more.

Delivering top-notch service has not been easy as it battled government policies, economic changes, demands and wants by consumers, all at an affordable rate. Over the years, it has also enjoyed tremendous successes, including being viewed in many countries outside Africa. Today, they are trying to add another feather to their cap, like the best video on demand provider with Showmax.


Showmax is a Multichoice product in place to compete with other online subscription video-on-demand services launched in 2015. Multichoice tactics were to leverage high-quality local content and partnership with telecommunication companies.

While some welcomed the idea, others wondered why DStv needed an arm, and how successful it will be considering it relied on mobile telecom to stream its services. Another question to its seeming acceptance was that international on-demand streaming heavyweight Netflix was expanding its tentacles to Africa.

Furthermore, Netflix was also looking to stream local African content in addition to tons of original content associated with Netflix. Knowing this, why would Multichoice sink its teeth in this terrain instead of polishing its current pay-TV service for the people?

However, Showmax is already doing well. The company is said to be streaming in 54 countries across the continent, with over 10 million homes using the service. It also reported revenue of 22.6 billion Rands from start to a 5.9 billion USD on a year and year growth. So, it is clear to say that Showmax is ready to take on any subscription video on demand market with everything in its arsenal.

This means that Netflix and others pay attention as Naspers, Multichoice is out to remain market leaders and are already spreading their tentacles outside the continent.

What are Showmax goals?

Showmax is ready and has a mission to reach more than 15 million homes outside South Africa/African market to Europe, North America, Asia, New Zealand, and down under Australia. Showmax is hoping to sell Africa and African talents in movies to the world. To achieve this and garner an enormous customer base, it signed a deal with Samsung Electronics, including an agreement to offer its streaming service on its TVs too.

Showmax is also offering other broadcasting channels like the BBC, CBS, and Time Warner to show local African content on their program; courtesy of Multichoice. Their decision to show local content from cultures from the Middle East, India, Spain, and Mexico is increasing its visibility. It is also taking Africa into territory that knows little about Africa. The truth is Showmax’s ability to create incredible partnerships is the platform to take it to the next level.

Netflix – Its Roaring Opponent

What can we say? Netflix is an international streaming provider and its large consumer base gives it leverage over Showmax but in the tight African market, they may have to do more.

How does Showmax work?

Showmax video-on-demand streaming service is not a TV channel but a subscription with something for everyone from their phones, gaming consoles, smart TVs, tablets, laptops, and other display devices. For people to enjoy this service, they have to enable internet connection on their systems. Subscribers opt for month to month subscriptions and give you unlimited access to all the service has to offer.

What packages are available and their offerings?

Showmax offers four packages, including the regular Showmax bundle that gives you access to international and local content for as low as 3,000 naira.

The Showmax mobile for mobile phone users at 1,450 naira.

The Showmax Pro us a newer bundle that offer music, sports in addition to the hundreds of original and high-quality content. To enjoy all this, consumers pay a fee of 6,300 naira only.

The last is the Showmax Pro Mobile for people who want to enjoy a larger viewing screen like tablets or laptops. This bundle gives you access to all what the catalog has to offer at a token price of 3,200 nairas.

Now Netflix is affordable, but one must consider the price of data bundles and terrible network that hinders the efficient streaming of programs from their platform. Furthermore, Netflix does not offer sports of any kind. If your reason for subscribing to Netflix is to watch sports, you better stick with Showmax Pro.

Iroko TV

This is the streaming service for the masses if you ask me. Since Iroko TV aired, it has captivated the hearts of many Nigerians and Ghanaians. Dubbed the Netflix for African movies, drama, and series, Iroko TV came into the limelight in 2011. Need we say, it has proved to be more than expected? Today, it has the broadest catalog of African movies and also a distributor of it too. It is also streaming other shows that cater to kids and telenovela series from Indian and Korean as varieties on their platform.

With its success rate, the web-based streaming service is pitted to go public on the London Stock Exchange in 2021, and customers are left wondering when it will be listed on the NSE.

Whether it is Showmax or Netflix or Iroko TV or any other one, there is an intense rivalry brewing between these streaming services. Netflix offers local African producers and actors a major advantage. Asides from their tremendous contribution to the entertainment industry, movies streamed on Netflix gain international recognition and are nominated for excellence. Since it started streaming African content, there have been over 120 nominations, with African movies viewed in almost 200 countries.

On one hand, content creators, producers, scriptwriters, and others associated with the movie-making industry see Netflix as a platform for international recognition. However, we should not forget that Showmax is still new and has high hopes for the future.

Regardless of one might think; digital streaming is giving Africans a piece of private viewing at their own convenience. Netflix and Multichoice’ Showmax are the two biggest streaming services in Nigeria, and they are here to stay. As to which is the best will depend on the consumer and their needs. Each one has its unique offering and selling points, so choose what is best for you.

So who do you think is winning this battle for the eyeball in the Nigeria market?

Ladi Ogunseye is a marketing and communications professional with over 7 years of experience building brands strategically across Africa. He’s curb his teeth into reputation management with key individuals on the continent as well. He runs a private consulting firm as well his 9-5 at an international Fintech organization in Nigeria.

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Omoruyi Omoleye

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