Once upon a time, football allowed intricately designed pitches with drawings of football club crests and ornate patterns. But as from 2017, specifically in the English Premier League (EPL), it became a rule that “the playing surface must contain no markings other than the traditional horizontal and white lines.” This was to help assistant referees easily watch out for offside.
Further still, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) came and revolutionised how things were being done in football, trumping the penetration of assistant referees.
Like the Video Assistant Referee in football, and many other things that technology has imposed its tyranny of form on, streaming services have taken access to content up a notch. Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) has taken over from the days of VHS, CDs, and DVDs, leveraging the advancement in technology and the penetration of the internet to blur the borders of the traditional ways of accessing content.
The approach of streaming services, of which Africa houses three major providers — Showmax, Amazon Prime and Netflix, could make or mar a business as we have seen. For streaming services, users of SVODs and other stakeholders, therefore, it becomes important to ascertain what model of streaming approach works best for content delivery.
Netflix, which began as an online DVD rental company in 1997, has a rich catalogue of movies, with Europe, the Middle East, and Africa claiming the highest number of paying customers. While it employs the binge-watch model — a model where consumers can watch episodes or seasons of their favourite programming in just one sitting, Amazon Prime and Showmax employ the ‘one drop’ Model where each episode drops weekly till a series comes to an end.
Netflix’s subscriber growth took a hit in 2022, losing around 1.7 million subscribers in the first two quarters of the year. While there have been conversations that the binge-watch model may have been the culprit — as revolutionary as it is, Netflix attributes their loss to inflation, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and tough competition.
“We think our bingeable release model helps drive substantial engagement, especially for newer titles.
“This enables viewers to lose themselves in stories they love. We believe the ability for our members to immerse themselves in a story from start to finish increases their enjoyment and likelihood to tell their friends, which means more people watch, join and stay with Netflix”, said Netflix in their Q3 2022 announcement.
While Netflix does have more, Showmax, which appears to have a better understanding of the African market, has titles that have a blend of local and international content that allow more variety of viewing. From an elaborate catalogue of HBO exclusives and access to live sporting events to original drama series, Showmax boasts a diverse archive of content. In fact, whereas bingeable series is one of Netflix’s selling points, the focus on original African stories is one of Showmax’s USPs. Showmax privileges authentic stories that Africans can relate to in terms of language, culture, and belief system in order to preserve African identities and shape society through storytelling.
“We are expanding our investments in local stories by working closely with local talents and capabilities to ensure our identities as Africans are preserved and portrayed the way they should be”, said Busola Tejumola, the Executive Head of Content & West Africa Channels, MultiChoice Group — owners of Showmax.
Quantity to Netflix’s approach, Showmax maintains a weekly episode release strategy for original shows such as Ghana Jollof, ‘Journey of the Beats’, Diiche, Real Housewives of Lagos and Crime and Justice Lagos, among others.
Showmax’s one-drop model ensures that one looks forward to the next episode and yearns for it. It gives shows organic popularity and sustains conversations around them for weeks, when, for example, audiences would have moved on from a show they watched at one sitting on Netflix.
More importantly, Showmax’s one-drop approach is a forward-looking and profitable business model. It doesn’t only facilitate retainership and customer loyalty but also encourages recurring customers over one-time users. And this brings to light the integral place of content over the delivery of such content: whether bingebale or not, audiences would go the whole nine yards to watch their favourite shows so far they are invested in it enough.
As Africa gears up for the future of SVODs, retaining online viewers who have a very short attention span may no longer be solely dependent on the exclusivity of content as the case has been in the last few years of SVOD in Africa. The delivery model adopted by the service providers will also play an important role. Netflix’s adoption of an approach similar to Showmax’s one-drop model for Stranger Things, with the first set of seven episodes released on May 27, 2022, while the second set of two episodes released on July 1, 2022, bears testament to this. Netflix’s You Season 4 is also slated to be released on in two parts. The first part will premiere on February 9, 2023, while the second part will premiere on March 10, 2023.
Amidst the rising scramble for customers’ attention, viewing time and loyalty by streaming services, it appears Netflix is gradually reviewing its approach based on market demands and what has worked for Showmax, the present market leader dominating the SVOD market in Nigeria.
Binge-watching might be in favour for users currently, but the Showmax’s one-drop model is gradually changing how content is being consumed. Ahead of Netflix’s 29.7 per cent market share, Showmax currently owns a 31.6 per cent share of the SVOD market in Nigeria. The number of its subscribers is also on an exponential rise, projected to hit 2.1 million users by 2026. Pin that on its rich catalogue, ease of payment, convenient subscription plans and, of course, choice of streaming delivery – among others.
Like VAR ostracised the outdated responsibilities of assistant referees and horizontal lines in football, the one-drop model is on a fine trajectory to redefine content delivery of streaming services and overtake the binge-watch approach. Time will tell.
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