ShowMax Expands to 36 African Countries in Challenge to Netflix

  • Naspers streaming service doubles Africa users in four months
  • Video services in Africa struggling with connectivity

Naspers Ltd., Africa’s biggest company by market value, expanded its video-streaming service ShowMax into 36 new sub-Saharan African countries in a challenge to Netflix Inc., which is also growing in the region.

The new markets went online Friday, bringing ShowMax’s availability globally to 65 countries, the company said in an e-mail. The service started in August.

Naspers, which has a market value of $57 billion and is Africa’s largest pay-TV provider, is seeking to win over streaming customers before Netflix gains more foothold in Africa, a region with growth potential compared with more mature and slowing markets such as North America. Netflix has 34.5 million subscribers outside the U.S. and expanded to 130 countries in January, including African markets.

ShowMax, Netflix and rivals including Ericsson AB’s NuVu and PCCW Ltd.’s OnTAPTV are seeking to overcome challenges such as spotty Internet coverage and customers’ limited purchasing power as they expand their services in Africa.

“We’ve adapted our apps to address the needs of consumers in Africa, introducing features like downloads for viewing TV shows and movies when not connected,” Barron Ernst, ShowMax chief product officer, said in the e-mail. “In the first four months of 2016 we pretty much doubled the number of active subscribers, and that’s despite the entrance of Netflix into Africa.”

Naspers shares gained 2.4 percent to 1,982 rand as of 3:30 p.m. in Johannesburg.

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