Launched one year ago, ShowMax has clocked up over 10 million views – more than 700 years’ worth of TV shows and movies. We’ve learned much about what people watch and when they watch it, writes BARRON ERNST, Chief Product Officer for ShowMax.
We launched ShowMax on 19 August 2015, hitting the ground running with Africa’s largest on-demand catalogue of TV shows and movies. Over the past 12 months we’ve clocked up well over 10 million views, or more than 700 years’ worth of content if viewed back to back.
It’s been an insanely busy year for our team. My intention isn’t to boast, because we’ve got loads more to do, but dispassionately I’d say we’ve achieved a fair amount in that time. Enabling content downloads, setting up data usage caps, putting together a cash voucher system, and implementing multiple user profiles are some of the tougher technical challenges we solved, with additional tweaks and upgrades taking place on an almost daily basis. On top of that, since the launch we’ve added support for AirPlay, Apple TV, Chromecast, the DStv Explora, and more smart TVs.
So what have we learned about subscription video on demand in Africa? Here are some highlights. The survey I refer to was conducted earlier this year with just over 1,000 respondents.
When do people watch?
According to our stats, the peak viewing time is between 6 and 11 in the evening, reaching an absolute peak at around 8pm. Interestingly, the busiest days aren’t Friday or Saturday (we thought date night might be our killer function); instead we hit peak-couch-potato on Sundays.
How popular is internet TV in South Africa?
Our survey suggests that subscription video on demand (SVOD) usage is set to rapidly accelerate in South Africa. Only 35% of those surveyed currently subscribe to an internet TV service, but when asked whether they plan to be using an internet TV service within the next six months, that number rose to 65% of the respondents.
Why do people subscribe?
The main reason that people report using SVOD services is to access a wider range of content (39%), followed by access to the latest content (22%), and value for money (16%). Interestingly, given what we know of the binge-watching global phenomenon, only 13% listed binge-watching as the main reason for using this type of service.
What do people prefer to use to watch SVOD?
There can be a marked difference between how people in different countries view video content. In some countries, the majority watch on mobile devices, while in others there’s a preference for “lean back” viewing on TVs and computers.
The survey suggests that in South Africa things appear to be split pretty much down the middle. The following are the answers to “which device(s) do you use to watch internet TV” by people currently subscribed to a service. Respondents were able to select more than one device which is why the results come to more than 100%:
- 68% computer
- 63% tablet
- 37% smartphone
- 31% smart TV
- 7% Apple TV
- 6% other
What’s most important in a service?
When asked what aspects of an internet TV service are most important, the following factors were all ranked as “very important” by 50% or more of the respondents.
- Good video quality (66%)
- Value for money (61%)
- Right payment options (55%)
- Available on right devices (54%)
- Product features (52%)
- International content (50%)
In a sense, the answers aren’t surprising, but in the context of Africa they take on extra meaning. For example, the fact that video quality came out on top obviously highlights the importance of making sure your content delivery network is up to scratch, but given the fact that many users connect via mobile in less-than-optimal conditions, it shows that a service needs to go even further to improve the user experience. In our case that’s why we’ve delivered solutions for offline viewing (downloads), dynamic streaming, bandwidth capping, and even less-obvious solutions like reducing picture file sizes when displaying content “movie posters” on mobile devices.
How many hours do people watch per week?
Is there a couch potato tendency among the group surveyed? It’s difficult to do a direct comparison, but the results suggest that South Africans may indeed be ahead of the curve when it comes to how many hours are spent watching internet TV.
Ericsson published a Consumer Lab report in September 2015 that looked at viewing habits in multiple countries http://www.ericsson.com/news/1949448. This study found that on average, people watched 6.0 hours of streamed on-demand TV programmes, series and movies per week.
The respondents in South Africa who are subscribed to an internet TV service reported the following weekly viewing:
- less than 5 hours 26%
- 5 to 10 hours 44%
- 10 to 15 hours 17%
- 15 or more hours 11%
- don’t know 2%
What’s stopping people from subscribing?
What’s the main reason holding people back from subscribing? The clear answer is the cost of internet access (40%) rather than a lack of understanding how to access the services (20%). 15% of people find normal TV easier to use. Somewhat surprisingly, only 9% said that they don’t subscribe because they can pirate the content illegally.
Where to from here for ShowMax?
Pulling all this together, our take on the state of the industry one year in is that the time is right for SVOD in Africa. Having said that, it’s by no means an easy sell or an easy ride. We firmly believe that this isn’t a game of one-size-fits-all, and that localising your service, content, and partnerships is key. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cost and availability of decent internet connectivity is the biggest hurdle, but we believe there are elegant solutions, some of which we’ve already deployed and some of which are still in the works.
Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist
Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.
Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.
The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela. It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.
“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time. We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”
The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba. It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka. The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.
Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.
“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”
This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.
Avengers’ all-time accolade
This past weekend Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War became the second highest grossing film of all time at the South African Box Office.
This means that Marvel Studios now holds the number 2 and number 1 film of all time positions at the local Box Office, following Black Panther’s unprecedented record-shattering run since it’s 16 February 2018 release.
In South Africa, audiences continued to assemble in cinemas to witness the cinematic journey ten years in the making, earning Avengers: Infinity War a current total box office tally of just under R73 million with over 874 000 attendances.
Black Panther’s historic box office journey ended in June and now boasts a final box office total just shy of R107.5 million and over 1.43 million attendances, making it the biggest film of all time at the South African box office and the first to cross the R100m mark. This record builds on Black Panther’s list of achievements on the African continent and is the biggest grossing film of all time not only in South Africa, but also East and West Africa. Black Panther is now available to enjoy on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as to digitally rent or buy from retailers and providers across the continent.
Elsewhere in Africa, Avengers: Infinity War has also raked in a total of Kes 66.9m in East Africa, making it the 2nd highest grossing film of all time behind Black Panther. Similarly, in West Africa, the film hit N450m at the box office, making it the 2nd highest grossing international film of all time, also behind Black Panther.
For Marvel Studios fans, the action and adventure continues as the 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and The Wasp, hit cinemas this past weekend and created enough buzz to fly into the number one position at the South African Box Office.
“We are thrilled at the response that Marvel Studios’ titles have continued to receive from cinema-goers across the continent,” says Christine Service, Senior Vice President of The Walt Disney Company Africa. “With Ant-Man and The Wasp in cinemas, and both Captain Marvel and the next Avengers film in 2019, we are eagerly anticipating the continuing expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to celebrating with fans.”
On the animated front and with its own super hero theme, Disney•Pixar’s Incredibles 2, continues to entertain families across the country and is already Disney’s second-highest grossing animated film of all time behind Finding Dory, after only 3 weeks in release.