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Naspers today officially announced the launch of ShowMax, its Netflix-style online streaming service.
At an event in Johannesburg, the emerging markets internet and media giant revealed that the service will cost R99 a month.
In addition to the online offering, ShowMax has a companion app which is already available for download on Android and iOS
Among the shows available on ShowMax from day one: are The Big Bang Theory, Ray Donovan, Vikings, and True Blood.
While the service officially launched today, reports of its development have been circulating for some time now.
While earlier media reports suggested that Naspers’ ability to launch ShowMax was the result of an acquisition of UAE-based streaming company Icflix, the truth is actually a little different. While ShowMax does use Iclflix technology, it’s not entirely reliant on it.
When asked if the launch of ShowMax was a bid by Naspers to pre-empt the official launch of Netflix in South Africa (expected to happen before the end of 2016), ShowMax GM John Kotsafti said that it was more important to view ShowMax as a startup.
“Nothing is as important as this project,” he said at the event. “We’ve had to take a long-term view on this. We believe it’s the future.”
He also said that the company doesn’t see ShowMax as a threat to its various satellite TV offerings (which brought in the bulk of the R42.4-billion it made from video entertainment in FY15). Through its subsidiary Multichoice, Naspers runs the DStv and GOtv satellite offerings.
There are a number of reasons for that. For one, Naspers subsidiary Supersport is the predominant player in South African sports broadcasting. It has rights to local soccer, rugby, and cricket and broadcast partnerships for major sporting events around the globe. Hardly surprising then that you can only access all of its sports channels with a premium DStv subscription.
For another, there’s still a very long way to go before the majority of South Africans can afford the kind of internet subscription that allows for regular use of a streaming service.
Until that changes and an internet streaming player wrestles some of those rights away from Supersport, satellite TV is likely to remain a viable option for Naspers.
Still, it’s interesting to note that ShowMax was initially developed within DStv parent company Multichoice before splitting it off and moving it offshore for a number of business reasons.
Kotsafti also revealed that the service would most likely adopt the Netflix and Amazon Prime model of producing original content and that the the service’s first commissioned show would probably go live before the end of the year.
ShowMax will be run out of Johannesburg, where it already occupies office space and employs around 50 people. Among its high profile hires is former Vodacom head of corporate communications Richard Boorman.