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.
SA rises as Spotify turns 10
October 2018 marks 10 years since Spotify officially launched its music streaming platform and to celebrate this milestone, Spotify has taken a look at some of its biggest discoveries in music.
Spotify provided the following information:
The service only launched in South Africa in March this year, so this country is not included in the retrospective, but Spotify supplied Gadget with the following local streaming landmarks:
· Most streamed South African artist – Jeremy Loops
· Most streamed female South African artist – Shekhinah
· Highest first-day streaming record – AKA’s Beyonce
Since launch Spotify now sits at 180 million monthly active listeners across 65 countries. These Spotify users can enjoy a music library of over 40 million songs and podcasts, and over 3 billion-plus user-created playlists. As of 31 August 2018, Spotify has also paid over 10 billion euros to rights holders since launch.
To date, over 2 000 genres of music have been identified on Spotify, among them Wonky (electronic music characterised by synths with unusual time signatures), Shimmer Pop (a Swedish cousin of indie pop and indietronica), and British Blues (the blues…with a British flavour).
Spotify has also done an assessment of “listening diversity,” – the number of artists the average user streams per month – which has risen on Spotify over the past 10 years, at an average of about 8% per year. In the past three years alone, listening diversity increased about 40% on the strength of new personalised and editorial playlists – meaning people are listening to an increased number of artists on a regular basis.
An official Decade of Discovery playlist features the most-streamed songs over the past decade, including favourites like Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” Hozier’s “Take Me To Church,” Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.,” Rihanna’s “Work,” Sia’s “Chandelier,” Major Lazer’s “Lean On,” and the star-studded “Despacito Remix”.
Festival taps into source code of African identity
The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival enters its final week from 24 to 29 September with a special focus on gaming and beats. With the theme of “Tap Your Afro Source Code”, this year celebrates technology, creativity and innovation from across the African continent.
Dr Tegan Bristow, Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival director, says that the theme centres on African visions of technology by tapping into the sources of African tradition and culture alongside technology, creativity and innovation: “This year we are exploring how local culture can move and change the future of technology. How would you understand and unpack the source code of your African identity?”
In its final week, the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival explores music culture via the annual Beats Programme curated by WeHeartBeat, which will descend on the Tshimologong Precinct with a six-day takeover of Braamfontein’s tech hub. The program comprising of workshops, experiences and performances, facilitates the meeting of mind and spirit in an environment geared around the festival’s theme, “Tap Your Afro Source Code”.
The Fak’ugesi Beats Lab, running from the 24th to the 28th of September will host international electronic artists and explore the connection between music, technology and culture with local and international artists. The outcome from these sessions will result in an EP release, a short documentary and a live showcase performance at the Fak’ugesi Beats Bloc Party on the 29th. The artists featured in the 2018 Beats Lab are S.Fidelity (Switzerland), Zikomo (USA), Morena Leraba (Lesotho) and South African artists Bonj Mpanza and Hlasko.
In partnership with Ballantines Whisky and Business Arts South Africa, the programme includes panels on: ‘The Future of Music’ facilitated by Tefo Mohapi from iAfrikan.com and featuring guest panellists Riky Rick and Thibaut Mullings; ‘Managing Health Amongst Creatives’ featuring psychologist Thembi Mashigo and panel guests Ayanda Seoka, Mx Blouse and more. The day will include a Masterclass with Black Milk (USA), The Art of Remixing with Zikomo(USA) and close with a ‘Power of Collaborations’ session featuring Zikomo, S.Fidelity , Morena Leraba and Bonj Mpanza.
The last week of Fak’ugesi Festival also hosts a special session on the Future of African Gaming on the 28th and 29th of September. A full day on gaming, this will take place in collaboration with Red Bull Basement and focus on the theme of Tech for Good. The programme includes an Indie Games Arcade; a ‘Games for Good’ workshop focused games that address issues in South African urban environment.
The workshop will be followed by a “Futures and Networking” session, inviting the gaming community in the Southern Africa region to contribute to an understanding of what and how the Fak’ugesi Festival can develop and better support African games. This invitation comes after Fak’ugesi Festival in 2018 says farewell to A MAZE. / Johannesburg, which has supported its program since 2013 as the gaming partner.
A MAZE, under the leadership of its creative director, Thorsten S. Wiedemann, linked the Johannesburg gaming scene to an international network of indie developers for six years from 2012 until 2017. The two-way bridge between A MAZE. / Berlin and A MAZE. / Johannesburg inspired other projects like Super Friendship Arcade in Cape Town and Glitch Face in Johannesburg and was a huge impetus in the development of the Game Design programme in the Wits School of Arts. When the Fak’ugesi Festival was established in 2013, A MAZE fell under Fak’ugesi Festival support as the gaming partner. Weidemann added: “It’s been amazing meeting, working and learning from the local and national game and playful media community. We definitely made history together.”
The week’s activities culminate in a celebration at the Fak’ugesi Beats Bloc Party on Saturday 29 September. This event will reignite the energy and spirit created at the inaugural party in a union of performance, music, technology and digital innovation. The Bloc Party aims to showcase the best in underground talent, both local and international – etching its name in the cultural textbooks as an inspiration to future generations of creators, producers and innovators. The second instalment of this ground-breaking event will host performances from the Beats Lab participants, as well as Black Milk and a strong local contingent including Langa Mavuso, Mx Blouse, Symatics + Ramz, and Micr.Pluto.
Tickets for Thursday 27 September are R50 per session and can be purchased via WeHeartBeat. There will be a limited run of R200 student tickets available for Fak’ugesi Beats Bloc Party, upon presentation of a valid student ID. Workshop and student tickets can be purchased throughout the week at the reception of the Tshimologong Precinct.