Is Africa the Next Streaming Hotbed?

Is Africa the Next Streaming Hotbed?

Despite the sometimes vicious subscriber wars we’ve seen across the streaming board, Africa is a playground that’s been largely ignored. Until now, that is. As we see increasing team-ups with local production studios and a larger roll-out of products on the continent, Africa is becoming more and more prominent. Entertainment lawyer with Blake & Wang P.A, Brandon Blake, looks into this new development for us.

String of Deals

We have certainly seen a lot of Africa-focused attention in deals over the last few weeks, as streamers rush to sign with local film and TV producers. This after decades in which African talent and local markets have been widely ignored- especially the ‘Nollywood’ phenomenon that has served as a breeding ground for many of these creatives.

One of the first TV production companies brought into the fold, with a rather prolific slate now in development for international consumers, was EbonyLife studios. Currently, they’re working through Westbrook Studios and Universal has optioned a thriller from them. Last month we saw Amazon sign not one, but two major licensing deals, with Inkblot Studios and Anthill Studios. Disney + has greenlit for a rollout to South Africa. And has a property in a development with Cape Town-based animation house Triggerfish. Disney is also unveiling work on Iwájú, a sci-fi series with heavy Nigerian influence.

What’s changed?

The reality of the global marketplace, for one.
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As, ironically, with several key Asian markets, Netflix has been the only global streamer active on the continent for ages, running African Originals since 2020, primarily South African and Nigerian works. They are also now investing in non-English dramas set in West and East Africa. They account for well over half the streaming subscriptions on the continent currently.

Now they are being actively courted, with the enhanced financing that comes with global appeal. Of course, we can attribute some of the interest to a rising interest overall in non-English streaming content and a realization of the potential market there. An interest in exploring the overall ideas around the continent, and telling African stories by African creators.

But let’s be honest. It’s mostly business. Subscription numbers are stagnating in North America, and many initial markets are looking as tapped out. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, shines like a subscription diamond with that in mind. Streaming penetration is very low. From South America, where just over a quarter of households have a Netflix subscription, we see it drop to under 1% in sub-Saharan Africa. The current 5.1M estimated SVOD subscribers in the area could grow to over 15M by 2027. It’s just a question of who will be dominating the market at this point. Paired with the new and hungry ‘Netflix strategy’, as it’s being called, of producing local content for local eyes to bring in subscribers, the potential for lucrative investment is high, and the competition low.

For now, it remains a smaller part of the overall SVOD subscription market. But Africa could well become the last battleground for those precious subscriber numbers, and streamers are finally noticing. Where from here? We will be watching with interest.

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