There is a reason I do not pay attention to online TV. It’s because I am a Kenyan. As part of the 99% of Kenyans online who use mobile Internet, I do not have access to reliable and affordable unlimited Internet. I depend 100% on data bundles. This is why you will not find me talking about Netflix, Spotify and other on-demand online streaming services. Not here, not anywhere else. But today I want to talk about Showmax, the Nasper’s owned online on-demand TV service provider. I am talking about Showmax for two reasons: 1. prioritisation on local content and 2. Managed consumption of data bundles.
You all know Nasper’s – it is the company behind your beloved brands like Multichoice (DStv, GOtv, MNet, SuperSport), OLX and tens of other brands particularly popular in South Africa. When Netflix arrived in Kenya, many pointed out that the service will be the killer of DStv, but 10 months after Netlfix’s arrival in our doors, the hype that surrounded its arrival has died out. Other than the very few Kenyans (mostly Nairobians) who have access to unlimited fibre Internet at home or office (if offices are included then Kenyans on fixed Internet account for only 1% or about 300,000 of Internet subscriptions), majority of us cannot even start dreaming of subscribing to Netflix.
Netflix for instance would like you to part with $12 each month to enjoy its premium package. Not so bad as you would be able to gain access to thousands upon thousands of old and new movies and TV shows. However, if your Internet access depends on those daily/weekly/monthly data subscriptions on Safaricom, on the minimum you’ll need to set aside over Kshs 70,000 per month to fully enjoy those movies and TV Shows (see this article for details on why you need to set aside Kshs 70,000 for data bundles.)
Last week, Showmax officially launched in Kenya with the aim of tackling two main challenges Internet TV has faced locally. The first challenge is the cost of Internet. To let subscribers enjoy content at reduced data consumption, Showmax has done the best it can to reduce the data size of its content, mostly by up to 75%. To test this, I bought data on my Safaricom line and watched two episodes of a TV show that lasted for 83 minutes total. Before clicking the Watch button, I had 3GB of data but after the 83 minutes of non-stop streaming, my data bundles dropped to 1757MBs, meaning I had consumed 1243MBs. Per minute consumption therefore comes to 14.975Mbs, or for the purposes of calculations, 15MBs per minute.
On average, as an individual you spend roughly 6 hours on TV per day (including time spent watching online videos). The data consumption would therefore come to roughly 5.4GB which translates to 162GB per month. The cheapest you will need to spend for such data is Kshs 24,300, and that’s when you buy the Airtel Unlimited modem that goes for Kshs 3,000 for 20GB. Although still out of reach, this is still 65% cheaper than the Safaricom BigBox or Netflix option. Showmax has really tried to reduce data consumption just as they have promised, and there is more…
During the launch of Showmax, I put the connectivity and Internet affordability question to John Kotsaftis, General Manager, ShowMax (pictured above), to which he responded that Showmax is already in talks with Safaricom to work out a plan that will enable data bundle users access Showmax content at extremely reduced rates. As of today, Showmax is unable to make any promises on when any data plans will be rolled out.
The next problem most would be online TV subscribers are faced with is payment methods. Other than cash, most Africans and particularly Kenyans do not trust making payments using credit/debit cards. Actually very few Kenyans own those cards. Kenyans would rather make payments in cash but if need be MPESA is the second best alternative. This was today captured by our Economic Policy Analyst and Researcher Mr. Frederick Ombako when he posted something to the effect that Facebook should introduce MPESA based payments for sponsored posts. This is what he wrote on his Facebook:
To further explain how the MPESA option has been of help, Mr. Ombako said this about Uber:
Now Netflix, just like any other US based company does not allow Lipa na MPESA option (at least not yet). The only available payment options on Netflix are credit/debit cards and Paypal. This means many like myself who do not have or trust credit/debits cards will find it hard to subscribe to Netflix. Showmax has however made things easier for Kenyans by incorporating MPESA in their system. In addition to MPESA, Showmax also allows payments using the standard credit/debit cards, Paypal and Showmax voucher cards.
Finally on affordability, Showmax has the lowest rates in the TV subscription market, allowing one to subscribe for
the basic offering at Kshs 330 per month. The Premium version on the other hand goes of Kshs 880. Compare this with Netflix whose basic bouquet goes for $7.99 per month (about Kshs 800), Standard bouquet for $9.99 per month (about Kshs 1,000) and premium bouquet going for $11.99 per month (about Kshs 1,200).
Let’s go with the Kshs 880 per month that would allow one to download up to 25 titles and stream endless other titles. If you are a 50 bob movie consumer, the 25 titles would cost you Kshs 1,250. What this means is that if once in a while you are able to get access to free Internet, then what you can do is to subscribe to ShowMax premium, get yourself to the free Internet, and download the titles to watch. This way you will get rid of Internet charges and buy your movies for less than Kshs 50 a title.
The most beautiful part of Showmax is the support it has for local content. For example, the balance between local and International content on the Showmax basic is 50/50, whereas the balance between local and International content on the Showmax premium is 30/70. More so, Showmax content is tailored such that the International content from a wide variety of studios that you are likely to watch as a Kenyan is what has been included in the service.
The support for local content means that content producers now have a place to market their products, and hopefully wait for Kenyans to love local productions.
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