Global TV companies battle for dominance in Africa

The French Canal+ is set to be the top satellite TV provider in Africa, while South Africa’s Showmax and US-based Netflix are facing off in the streaming wars.

By Outlier Reporter
Monday, March 4, 2024

Image: Canva

  • The continent is split 3 ways along language lines between dominant satellite TV providers
  • Showmax is gaining ground on Netflix in the streaming wars in South Africa
  • A mostly positive by-product of the battle to be No 1 is the commissioning of locally made shows

South Africa’s Takeover Regulation Panel (TRP) has ruled that French satellite broadcaster Canal+ is obliged to make a takeover offer for SA’s MultiChoice. Canal+ already owns more than 35% of MultiChoice, the threshold at which it is required to make a takeover offer. Canal+ holds it is not obliged to make an offer because it has limited voting rights as a foreign-owned company. The TRP disagreed.

While the mechanics of the boardroom are intriguing it’s also interesting that should Canal+ take over MultiChoice it would dominate satellite TV across most of the continent. 

Right now the continent is split three ways when it comes to TV services: southern and eastern Africa are dominated by MultiChoice, central and west Africa are dominated by the French Canal+, and the Arabic Shahid network dominates north Africa.

Netflix vs Showmax

While Canal+ looks like it could be poised to be the dominant satellite provider on the continent, US-based Netflix battles for dominance of streaming platforms. Its competition in large parts of Africa, and especially in South Africa, is MultiChoice’s Showmax.

Specific subscriber numbers for these services in Africa are hard to come by, but late last year research company Omdia declared Showmax as the new leader in African streaming services with 2.1-million subscribers on the continent in November 2023 compared to 1.8-million subscribers for Netflix.

The bulk of these subscribers are still in South Africa where the battle for the largest streaming audience is still in favour of Netflix.

According to the UK’s Digital TV Research, there are 1.2-million Netflix subscribers in South Africa versus Showmax’s 937,000 subscribers

Local productions

One of the prime battlefields for both Showmax and Netflix is local content with both investing increasing amounts in local productions in South Africa and Nigeria. 

In a recent report on its activities in Africa, Netflix said it had commissioned 16 shows in South Africa and 3 in Nigeria between 2016 and 2021. Netflix also licensed 283 shows in Nigeria and 173 in South Africa.

Showmax hasn’t published comparable data that we know of but it does have a section on local original content. Based on this we can see 39 local productions in South Africa and 14 in Nigeria

In the same report, Netflix said it had spent $125-million in operations in South Africa between 2016 and 2022. This included the 16 films and mini-series Netflix commissioned, such as the teen drama Blood and Water and the comedy mini-series How to Ruin Christmas.

In the same period, Netflix invested $23.6-million in Nigerian content resulting in 3 commissioned titles and 283 licensed ones.

Most popular in Africa on Netflix

In another report released last year, Netflix listed its most-watched shows between January and June 2023. Among the more than 18,000 titles are many of the South African and Nigerian shows commissioned by Netflix. 

At the top of the list is Unseen: Season 1, a South African thriller starring Gail Mabalane.

Top African shows on Netflix