Streaming Services Predicted to Grow Subscriber Bases as More Choose Video-on-Demand
More Africans are expected to subscribe to streaming platforms as viewers seek more control over content preferences.
Once upon a time, when people wanted to have access to multiple stations for television viewing, they got a cable subscription. A particular cable subscription package may come with a set number of channels dedicated to sports, movies, TV shows, news, and maybe nature. You got forty channels, maybe less or more. Hallmark for the films, MTV for the music, some bootlegged Middle Eastern station for the sports (there was always a few of those).
The issue with cable subscriptions was that you watched what was available. Hence, the tradition of “channel surfing” - you flipped channels until you stumbled on to one that was showing a film or show or sports event you wanted to watch. If you found none, well...go read a book or something. Point is, TV viewership was limited to what was available.
One might say on-demand TV has always existed. After all, we all recall the video rental store: you paid, got a video cassette, popped it in the VCR, and returned it after you were done, most likely picking another up on the way out.
This might have been the first instance of “active” choice; you decided what film you wanted to rent. This is opposed to the “passive” choice of channel surfing – you still decided what you wanted to watch, but you didn’t decide what was available.
This is one of the factors that has led to the rise of streaming. Streaming is purely on-demand television. You watch what you want to watch, when you want to watch it. No need to check the cable brochure for when Die Hard or Home Alone is on; Die Hard and Home Alone are always on. Wanna watch it at midday or midnight? That part is up to you.
This is one of the factors that has contributed to the rise of streaming in Africa: more people want that choice and optionality. There is also the issue of “waste”: having channels you never watch. Talk to anyone who has a subscription to the popular cable company, Multichoice (a very on-the-nose name), and it is not uncommon to hear people say “I watch only the sport/news channels”, or “I got this just for *insert popular TV show*”.
The TV and media market research company, Digital TV Research (ditto for straight-to-the-point names), shows that streaming services subscription are on the rise on the continent, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. They estimate that pay TV subscribers will rise by as many as 16 million subscribers between 2023 and 2028.
Leading the charge is the popular subscription network, Netflix, whose subscriber figures are expected to double in the time period. Netflix are far and away the most popular streaming service in Africa, boasting nearly three times the total subscribers of the next highest service, the Multichoice and Canal Plus-owned Showmax.
The fondness for Showmax clearly shows an appetite on the continent for Western content. However, the streaming giant have begun to tune their product to Africa, producing originally African media in various movie industries around the continent and tailoring their content options according to viewing country.
Other on-demand streaming networks expected to grow are Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus. Amazon Prime is recently established, but is rapidly building a large collection, along with producing original content. The company has also signed deals to broadcast sporting events live, and benefits by attaching the streaming delivery to its ubiquitous retail-and-delivery service in a get-one-get-all system.
Disney Plus contains a massive stock of all Disney produced content, from the animated movies and shows to the enormous Marvel Cinematic Universe and its spinoff TV shows. Other streaming services such as Paramount Plus and HBO Max, although Digital TV Research does not expect these to gain much traction in the African market.
It must be said that there still exists the issue of availability: one is restricted to the content that is available on their streaming service of choice. There is no network which would carry every film or TV show or sports event a customer wants to watch. This may then necessitate paying for another platform or paying for additional content within the same platform.
The issue of waste still exists. It is not uncommon for viewers to watch only a small percentage of the progamming on offer. Waste also happens in terms of non-use: customers continue to pay through direct deposits for subscriptions they no longer use. Finally, cost comes in. Streaming subscriptions are expensive and paying for more than one will take a toll. Additionally, a service like Showmax operates in tranches; one must pay more to unlock extra tranches of content.