Showmax has a strategy to beat Netflix’s streaming dominance

  • Despite being a South African firm, Showmax has fewer subscribers locally than American company Netflix.
  • However, Showmax’s production of more local content has seen it become the continent’s favourite streaming platform.
  • Local film production companies and actors will continue to benefit from the battle of the two streamers.

The recently relaunched Showmax is part of MultiChoice’s lofty plans for streaming supremacy across Africa. The platform is the second most popular streaming site in South Africa, despite being a local product, with just over 900 thousand subscribers, beaten only by global dominator Netflix at 1.2 million South African subscribers. However, when taking the entire Africa as context, Showmax dethrones Netflix with a total of 2.8 million against 1.8 million for the American firm.

This is according to data from The Outlier, which has mapped the streaming platform dominance across the continent. Of the top broadcasters and entertainment providers in Africa, MultiChoice and Canal+ cover the most territory. France’s Canal+ owns 30 percent of MultiChoice.

The top TV broadcasters in Africa. Image sourced from The Outlier.

In February, Canal+ made an offer to purchase the rest of MultiChoice, an offer that was swiftly rejected by the South African provider. Still, Canal+ has greater plans for countries outside of Francophone Africa in which it reigns, while in the North of the continent, the Arabic Shahid network is the leader.

Even though Showmax’s dominance continues, it is still lagging behind Netflix when it comes to its home base of South Africa. According to The Outlier, one way that Showmax is looking to beat Netflix is in the production of locally-flavoured content.

While Netflix’s own data suggests that it had commissioned 16 new shows in South Africa and three in Nigeria between 2016 and 2021, Showmax is already streaming 39 locally-made productions in South Africa and 14 in Nigeria.

Showmax and MultiChoice have the advantage of having their fingers on the local pulse, being South African firms they may find it easier to source local stories, find and highlight local talent and gauge local audience reaction as compared to Netflix which has a much smaller South African footprint and less experience in the country.

Originals from Showmax have seen popular series like Devilsdorp, the Stella Murders, Spinners and much more. Meanwhile, Netflix offers series such as the teen drama Blood and Water and the comedy mini-series How to Ruin Christmas. It is evident that Showmax being an African streaming platform allows it to produce content that has a bit more local nuance, and gives it access to the opportunity to make local documentaries.

Still, African-inspired and produced programming on Netflix allows local stars and companies to shine on an international level. Thriller series The Unseen, starring Gail Mabalane, a South African production, has been streaming for over 60 million hours worldwide. Other African productions like Shanty Town, Blood and Water and Kings of Jo’burg have all been streamed across the globe for millions of hours by Netflix subscribers.

Showmax’s growth against Netflix has been sustained, even though the worldwide leader shows no signs of slowing down. It will be interesting to see what the next few years hold as both firms continue to produce local content to sway African subscribers. The real winners in this battle it seems, are the African film production crews, writers and actors.


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