For a lot of people across Africa, the options for video entertainment have never been as good as they are right now. The internet has introduced people to a lot of entertainment that includes a number of pay TV alternatives.
In addition to the early to market pay TV services like iROKO and DStv, there have also been several new providers like Netflix, Showmax, ONTAPtv, and NuVu that have emerged in the past year also staking a claim for the top spot in the Video On Demand services race.
Comparing these services isn’t such a straightforward process, though. Most of them aren’t available across Africa (Netflix and Showmax are the only ones that actually cater for most of the continent) and some of them have niche market focuses (like iROKO’s focus on Nollywood).
Despite these circumstances, it’s still possible to identify the one service that has emerged as the best-placed VOD content provider for Africa. Right now that spot belongs to Showmax.
Other than being accessible in the majority of countries (37 countries) on the continent this VOD service has positioned itself as the best choice for the African market because of the way it addresses the unsolved problem of internet access in Africa.
For all the praise VOD services receive and the excitement they create as entertainment alternatives for linear TV, there’s the reality that right now, in Africa, most people won’t consider them as serious TV contenders because internet access is still widely driven by expensive mobile broadband options that make streaming or downloading difficult.
This is where Showmax outdoes its competitors. The service’s mobile application has incorporated a couple of features that make it easier to access a data hungry service like VOD on a tight mobile broadband budget.
The main feature is bandwidth capping which gives users the option to control the amount of data that they spend for streaming. With options for low, medium and high quality streaming a user can spend as little as 0.3 GB per hour while streaming content, which translates to approximately 3 hours for 1 GB of data.
Also related to budgeted bandwidth, there’s the feature that gives users offline access to content with the option to adjust the quality of video that’s downloaded and ultimately the data spent downloading this content.
To be fair, both these features have been independently used by other VOD services like Netflix (it introduced bandwidth capping as a way of adapting to markets with expensive data) and iROKO (it brought in offline access to accommodate usage patterns).
However, Showmax is the only African provider that has adopted both features, which shows a strong focus on the African market by making a service that is aware of the broadband issues we have here.
Is that enough to take a lead in Africa? Yes, especially since Showmax also offers the largest repository of content (which also has some African productions), has a slightly cheaper service than its biggest rival, Netflix and it is, after all has been said, catering for most of Africa.
If you add these things to the considerations around bandwidth then you have a winner in the contest for best African VOD service.