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ShowMax turns one – here’s what we’ve learned so far

Views, Aug 19 2016
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ShowMax turns one – here’s what we’ve learned so far

For this post, we spoke with Naspers’ Barron Ernst about the subscription video on demand market in Africa in his role as Chief Product Officer for ShowMax.

Barron, tell us about ShowMax? 

We launched ShowMax on 19 August 2015, hitting the ground running with Africa’s largest on-demand catalogue of TV shows and movies. Over the past 12 months we’ve clocked up well over 10 million views, or more than 700 years’ worth of content if viewed back to back.

Our team has achieved a fair amount in one year. Enabling content downloads, setting up data usage caps, putting together a cash voucher system, and implementing multiple user profiles are some of the tougher technical challenges we solved, with additional tweaks and upgrades taking place on an almost daily basis. We’ve also added support for AirPlay, Apple TV, Chromecast, the DStv Explora and more smart TVs.

What have we learned about subscription video on demand in Africa? Earlier this year, we conducted a survey of over 1,000 people and received some interesting insights that I explore below. 

When do people watch?

According to our stats, the peak viewing time is between 6 and 11 in the evening, reaching an absolute peak at around 8pm. Interestingly, the busiest days aren’t Friday or Saturday (we thought date night might be our killer function); instead we hit peak-couch-potato on Sundays. 

How popular is internet TV in South Africa?

Our survey suggests that subscription video on demand (SVOD) usage is set to rapidly accelerate in South Africa. Only 35% of those surveyed currently subscribe to an internet TV service, but when asked whether they plan to be using an internet TV service within the next six months, that number rose to 65% of the respondents.

Why do people subscribe? 

The main reason that people report using SVOD services is to access a wider range of content (39%), followed by access to the latest content (22%), and value for money (16%). Interestingly, given what we know of the binge-watching global phenomenon, only 13% listed binge-watching as the main reason for using this type of service.

What’s most important in a service?

When asked what aspects of an internet TV service are most important, the following factors were all ranked as “very important” by 50% or more of the respondents.

· Good video quality (66%)

· Value for money (61%)

· Right payment options (55%)

· Available on right devices (54%)

· Product features (52%)

· International content (50%)

In a sense, the answers aren’t surprising, but in the context of Africa they take on extra meaning. For example, the fact that video quality came out on top obviously highlights the importance of making sure your content delivery network is up to scratch, but given the fact that many users connect via mobile in less-than-optimal conditions, it shows that a service needs to go even further to improve the user experience. In our case that’s why we’ve delivered solutions for offline viewing (downloads), dynamic streaming, bandwidth capping, and even less-obvious solutions like reducing picture file sizes when displaying content “movie posters” on mobile devices.

What’s stopping people from subscribing?

What’s the main reason holding people back from subscribing? The clear answer is the cost of internet access (40%) rather than a lack of understanding how to access the services (20%). 15% of people find normal TV easier to use. Somewhat surprisingly, only 9% said that they don’t subscribe because they can pirate the content illegally.

Where is next for ShowMax?

Our take on the state of the industry one year in is that the time is right for SVOD in Africa. Having said that, it’s by no means an easy sell or an easy ride. We firmly believe that this isn’t a game of one-size-fits-all and that localising your service, content, and partnerships is key. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cost and availability of decent internet connectivity is the biggest hurdle, but we believe there are elegant solutions, some of which we’ve already deployed and some of which are still in the works.
 


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