Showmax overtakes Netflix, who saw this coming?

Showmax Pro stream EPL, La Liga, Serie A

It looks like Showmax has not only taken the fight to Netflix but is currently winning. Showmax is Mulitchoice’s (DStv’s) video streaming app if you had forgotten. It remains Netflix’s biggest competition in Africa.

In November 2023, Showmax had 2.1 million subscribers whilst Netflix had 1.8 million in Africa. A good 300,000 difference, incidentally that’s the number third placed Amazon Prime video has on the continent. So, Netflix and Amazon combined can only match Showmax in the motherland.

When Netflix launched in Africa back in 2016, most people thought Showmax and DStv’s days were numbered and that the Americans would steamroll the competition. Early last year we were getting predictions like these from Digital TV Research:

It appears predictions of Showmax’s demise were grossly exaggerated. Now comfortably in first place, they are watching third placed Amazon retreat from the African battlefield.

Earlier this year Amazon announced that they would be downsizing their Africa and Middle East operations. An admission of defeat if I’ve ever seen one.

It makes sense that they would flee, the video streaming battlefield has many corpses lying about in Africa. We can’t even talk about all the lost comrades but you might remember Econet’s Kwese TV, Vodacom’s Video Play, MTN’s VU, Cell C’s Black and many others that fell by the wayside.

It appears the mobile network operators failed at this video streaming game. Almost as if video streaming is not about tech. Turns out it’s about much more than being an Internet Service Provider.

Why Showmax is winning

Do note that this does not mean Showmax will win the war but rather that they are currently winning. So, the prediction above might still come true.

However, we cannot dispute that Showmax is doing something right. Some interviews carried out by Rest of World offer a glimpse into what is working well for Showmax. Spoiler, it’s not a secret, it’s something we’ve talked about before – local content.

This always comes as a surprise to people like me. I don’t care where my content is created, I don’t care if it’s more relatable or not and so I find that I consume mostly just American video content. Mostly because of the better storytelling, production quality etc. (which is somewhat subjective, I concur).

It’s not the same story when it comes to music, I find African music just as good as any other continents’ and so if one music streaming service offered better African content I’d be on that one.

Apparently a lot of Africans feel the same about video content. Check out this comment by some Nigerian lady,

Showmax feels like watching Nigerian TV without having a TV. I like the reality TV shows you find on Showmax — The Real Housewives shows and Big Brother Naija.

Who would have thought feeling like Nigerian TV could be a positive? – not me. It shouldn’t be surprising though, bootleg Nigerian movies are still popular on Zimbabwean streets to this day. Make it make sense.

Multichoice does have extensive knowledge of Africans’ preferences from decades of dominance with DStv. That has helped them curate the best kind of African content and the people are voting with their wallets, they love it.

That’s something Netflix does not have. Netflix has invested in understanding the market and have commissioned a lot of African content but their experience with Africans’ preferences is no match for Showmax’s.

Even so, the $175 million Netflix invested into just South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya between 2016 and 2022 does go a long way. 173 titles were licensed and 16 original shows commissioned in South Africa whilst 283 titles and three originals were greenlit in Nigeria.

I don’t really care about this local content but if I were to subscribe to one, I still would choose Showmax over Netflix. How come?

International content

While Showmax has placed a great emphasis on local content, they have not skimped on international content.

With most video content creators creating their own content, no one is really licensing their hit shows to competing services anymore. So, Showmax got around this by partnering with said content creators.

HBO has its own apps in America but decided to partner with Showmax in Africa and you get those high quality HBO shows like Game of Thrones on Showmax. This is a huge deal for those that love American shows because HBO has a great catalogue and is still releasing quality hits.

We talked about Showmax partnering with NBC (Comcast) and while that might not move the needle by itself, NBC does have an impressive catalogue.

So, this means Showmax is at least DStv, HBO and Peacock (NBC’s streaming service in the USA) combined. All for the price of one streaming service. That’s not a bad deal at all.

Multichoice has been in the bundling game for years and we shouldn’t surprised that they pulled off a streaming service bundle.


This is the major reason I would pick Showmax. Netflix cannot compete. Showmax has exclusive rights to the English Premier League and that right there is all I need to know.

If you’re into sport at all, Showmax is the clear choice. Of course if you can afford both then by all means, however, if you have to choose one it’s a no-branier.


My flag is firmly planted on planet YouTube. I don’t know why, but watching some random dude talk about town planning in the Netherlands is more entertaining to me than a high budget TV show.

It doesn’t make any sense, kind of like those Nigerian movie lovers. It doesn’t make any sense but the heart wants what it wants.

Now, most Africans still do not have internet access and most of those that do cannot afford to stream video and so the video streaming addressable market is still tiny.

As more Africans go online we shall see who gets to own this pie. Will Showmax continue to dominate or will Netflix rise as the predictions have it? Or will the sleeper YouTube become our de-facto TV? We shall see.

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  1. Mika

    We are still centuries behind other countries.I have a smart TV but the data to watch all those Showmaxes, Netflix and the rest is prohibitive.I will watch Dstv instead.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Unfortunately, we still can’t afford these services. Netflix has a mobile plan for $2.99 a month but the internet access fee is crazy.

  2. Mika

    Data is too expensive.I will watch Dstv in the meanwhile

    1. Leonard Sengere

      DStv is still the cheaper option but hopefully that’s going to change. Multichoice clearly thinks it’s going to happen.

  3. CyberGhost

    Thanks for the eye opening article .I’m on Planet YouTube for now,I wish they could offer YouTube Premium here in Zim,I’d love to try showmax though

  4. Velicoraptor

    Until we can get those bundled offers like in SA and data prices become less prohibitive. It’s that guy in town with terabytes worth of Netflix shows plus YouTube for me.

  5. CC263

    Like you, I too am a citizen of planet YouTube. I don’t know why but I seem to get my fix there than on Dstv.

  6. 3B

    Showmax is not winning cos people with dstv whether subscribers or they stopped using it they would be automatically have showmax accounts. Netflix has nothing to worry about.

    1. Geralt of Rivea

      Dai wanyora neShona kana Ndebele.

  7. Ngwenya

    Im a youtube fan too. I enjoy watching those random pple build random things from cars to houses. The hrt want wat t wants

  8. Geralt of Rivea

    Personally, I think besides sports, Showmax does well in terms of local content especially South African local content which is watched across English speaking SADC.

  9. EPL rules

    I think EPL is winning the game for Showmax here I don’t really think it’s about local content thts my personal opinion

  10. Anonymous

    Showmax has never revealed how many subscribers it has. I don’t believe this article. How many people open an account just to have free viewing for 7 days and then never renew?

    1. JC

      I am not a fan of football neither my family members all want is $70 to buy 1 terabyte of data and i am good to go. My wife watches african movies on youtube my kids are into online games as of me i download what i want to watch and i get to keep it.

  11. Even I

    My flag is firmly planted on planet YouTube. Even I. I especially enjoy anything tech, Cold Fusion, Undecided with Matt Farrel, MKBHD etc…

  12. HE.

    Live content is addictive. We should make plenty of our own. Some of it may find its way onto those platforms or even HBO. Revenue in, not revenue out. But for that we have to improve everything from education, sport,arts and culture. Long name for a simple thing…..X

  13. fararea

    Game accidental merges Infinite Craft emphasize the importance of adaptability and problem-solving skills.

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