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Wednesday, 02 January 2019 12:26

Multichoice, Startimes face bigger threat with Netflix entry

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Scene from Lion Heart Movie Scene from Lion Heart Movie

 

Pay TV companies, Multichoice and StarTimes might be facing a bigger threat on the Nigerian TV scene with the involvement of global streaming service, Netflix.

Frightened by Netflix’s growing popularity among African viewers, Multichoice -Africa’s largest television operator, wants the global streaming platform to be regulated. 

 

In a report by Quartz Africa, The Chief Executive Officer of MultiChoice, Calvo Mawela blamed Netflix for the loss suffered by the company in the 2017 financial year.

Mawela said more than 100,000 subscribers and an additional 40,000 were lost to Netflix and in a 2018 interview with South African Business Day, the Multichoice boss called on regulators to clamp down on Netflix and other over-the-top services.

Quartz Africa further reports that in a testimony to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, Mawela said over-the-top service providers like Netflix were already at an advantage because they did not have to contend with affirmative action regulations.

 

It's a known fact that Netflix will be concentrating on the shores of Africa in 2019 with Nigeria being on its list.

In the words of Netflix's vice president of international originals, Erik Barmack, the company's Europe team is "in the process of looking at opportunities in Africa. It's definitely the case that we'll commission some series there in…2019." 

While Multichoice and Startimes are currently battling with iROKO, the leading streaming platform for original Nigerian content, the involvement of Netflix might have spearheaded another line of competition in 2019.

However, in an interview with Business Insider SSA, Netflix said thought the company is following Nollywood closely and focusing more on content, there are no plans to have a physical office in Nigeria.

'There are no plans set as yet. We are following the local industry closely and focusing more on content rather than physical presence,' the company told Business Insider Sub Saharan Africa. 

It is believed that the reason for this is to avoid the seeming difficulties faced by iROKO when it moved its headquarters from Manhattan to Lagos.

In its bid to operate in the terrain where Netflix is king, MultiChoice launched a standalone streaming services, on-demand service ShowMax, and DStvNow. The online services allow existing subscribers to livestream channels or watch selected shows on demand.

While spotty internet connections and pricey data plans have affected iROKO and MulticChoice streaming operations, Netflix is already looking to help fix the issue and secure a better connection for its Nigerian audiences.

To this end, Quartz Africa reports, Netflix has deployed a dedicated server in Nigeria in partnership with Spectranet.

The server will hold the entire Netflix content library and will provide customers in Nigeria with the best possible video streaming performance.

Following the acquisition of Genevieve Nnaji's 'Lionheart' in 2018, after buying the rights of blockbusters such as Kunle Afolayan’s 'October 1st,' Biyi Bandele’s 'Fifty,' it' without a doubt that Netflix means business and ready to compete in the Nigerian market.

 

The news of Netflix entry has elicited relief and joy amongst filmmakers and Nigerian movie industry players who seem to have long endured the hostility of local distributors that held Nollywood’s economy since its creation.

Chief Executive Officer of Biola Alabi Media, Biola Alabi told Nairametrics that the involvement of Netflix in the industry signals a boost for filmmakers and boom for Nollywood.

'I think it is encouraging and I think it is a very good sign that the rest of the world is interested in Nollywood content. This also told me that local investors will miss out on this big opportunity if they don’t pay more attention. Netflix has a production budget of $8 billion. That’s just for production of original content. That’s not talking about acquisitions, or technology because remember, they’re a technology firm. We’re talking about $8 billion that is just for producing original content. Our entire film industry in Nigeria is roughly $1 million. We’re talking about just one company here and not even including others in the west. So for me, that’s concerning because if we are not investing in our own stories, our own stories will then be dictated to us by other people.'

 

However, all is not lost for Multichoice, who will still have three of its indigenous African Magic stations on DSTV compete favourably.

With indigenous contents of low movie quality and budget on Africa Magic Yoruba, Africa Magic Hausa and Africa Magic Igbo, the pay TV company will continue to cater for a part of the larger market.

Just like Multichoice has invested in production, Chinese StarTimes have also made a few investments in Nollywood over the past few years.

The competition which used to be between the two giant pay TV companies will now be among four major contenders - Multichoice, StarTimes, iROKO and Netflix.

It is believed that this competition will probably have a positive impact for viewers across Nigeria including a possible lower subscription fees for streaming and TV content packages.

While there are also likely to be new investments in content production and infrastructures, Nollywood films stand a better opportunity and chance for larger continental and global exposure.

 
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