The aim by Africa’s largest pay-TV company could result in more cost savings — given the expense of buying rights to shows in the US and elsewhere — and more viewers on the continent, Chief Executive Officer Calvo Mawela said in an interview. The Johannesburg-based company’s streaming service Showmax increased paying subscribers by 68% in the year through March, in part due to the decision to “double down” on local content offerings, he said.
“Making African content and paying actors and staff in local currencies comes at a fraction of the cost of buying dollar-denominated international content,” said Mawela. Many stories can be redeployed in different African countries and still resonate, adding to savings, he said.
The MultiChoice production “The River” — about wealthy businessmen and exploited township people — was made in South Africa and successfully adapted for audiences in countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya, said Mawela. Two Portuguese channels have been rolled out in Angola and Mozambique, where the language is spoken, and are proving very popular, according to Mawela.
Netflix Inc., which has been trying to make inroads in Africa, has also channeled cash into continent-made shows such as “Blood and Water”. The U.S. giant said this year it will invest 929 million rand ($59 million) into the South Africa creatives industry by 2023,
The company, spun out of e-commerce giant Naspers Ltd. in 2019, has been operating on the continent for 28 years and has almost 22 million customers. The group is offering cheaper packages on mobile phones to access a younger, less affluent audience and making deals with other content providers such as Netflix and Amazon.com Inc. to come onto its decoders.
“People tend to go onto our decoder and use all the different platforms through us,” said Mawela. The company recently started offering Disney Plus, adding a further revenue stream, he said.