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Will Netflix be able to impact the African continent?

US-based Video on Demand (VoD) service Netflix will supposedly be coming to South Africa in January 2016. Its expansion into South Africa was announced in January 2015, but with no confirmed date.

According to “industry sources familiar with the situation” speaking to MyBroadband, the VoD company will be launching here soon. Smart TV manufacturers in the South Africa has previously hinted about the offering and its launch date, but declined to comment further.

Even with such a heavy-weight hitting our shores, how much impact will it have on the country and continent?

Over the past few years, South Africa has seen the launch of several VoD offerings, such as MTN’s FrontRow and, to a lesser extent, DSTV’s BoxOffice. This year alone we’ve seen the launch of Naspers-owned ShowMax, competitor ONTAPtv, as well as local-only content provider SAVuka TV enter the market. Even Orange will be launching their own VoD service next year.

On the other hand, Altech Node was recently culled due to “increased competition in the VOD environment,” Altron CEO Robbie Venter told TechCentral.

Read more: Discover Digital VoD service acquires sports content, looks to make internet TV big in SA

ShowMax has been making waves with is enormous marketing budget and ability to offer movies, British TV shows, kykNET, Africa, and kids content for R99 per month. It is also available on Apple, Android, and Smart TV platforms, but no video game consoles. FNB-owned rewards program eBucks recently announced its partnership with ShowMax to purchase subscription time from the platform.

ONTAPtv, on the other hand, has taken a different approach to VoD. While still offering similar content to ShowMax and Netflix, the PCCW Global-owned company also offers Chinese, Fight Sports, and Indian content. All of their packages are individually priced with an ‘unlimited’ Mega Pack for standard offerings at R99 per month. Their Android app allows users to download content to the device for later viewing.

Recently, French film studio and distributor Canal+ Group announced its partnership with iRoko. This would see the launch of Africa’s first Francophone VoD service in Africa. While initially launching as an Android-only application, the service will offer download options and optimised services to save users on bandwidth costs.

Read more: iRoko, Canal+ to launch Africa’s first French subscription VoD service in ‘multi-million euro’ deal

Netflix also apparently started clamping down on users from outside of the countries it is available in. The service is technically illegal to stream in South Africa, though that hasn’t stopped tech-savvy customers from finding workarounds.

Given that monthly VoD packages are around R99 for unlimited viewing, Netflix will need to come in at a lower price. At present their plans range from US$8 (R121.78) to US$12 (R182.67).

Even though Netflix has started producing its own content, such as Daredevil and Jessica Jones, it’s a trend other VoD services have sought to emulate. Even Naspers’ ShowMax is understood to be looking at original content. Netflix’ success in South Africa is therefore far from guaranteed and it will need to work on its marketing, pricing, and perhaps even local content to make a splash in South Africa.

Author | Graham van der Made: Staff Reporter

Graham van der Made: Staff Reporter
Graham started out as an electronics manager at Take2 Home Entertainment and went on to spend a further ten years in the South African ecommerce industry. During this time, Graham founded and managed an online geek and hobby shop. He has always had a passion for writing and has... More

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