CEO Fridays: Patrick Mungai on the growth & evolution of Showmax in Kenya

Patrick Mungai, Showmax Regional Head of Growth
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Showmax first launched in South Africa in August 2015. When they came to Kenya in 2016, they went out of their way to localise the service, making M-Pesa payment live from the beginning, making sure Kenyan content featured on the site, and partnering with Safaricom.

Was it perfect? No. Amongst other things there were teething issues on some Android platforms and we’d like to have seen more local content.

Fast forward to 2018 and they have made immense strides in building the service. Not only do they have more content, their service is also available on more platforms including on most smart TVs and most importantly on Android Boxes. In Kenya also, they have produced more local content in conjunction with Kenyan content producers.

We sat down with Patrick Mungai, Showmax Regional Head of Growth to understand how far the service has come in Kenya

1. When Showmax launched here, there were issues accessing it via Android Boxes, something that has been fixed. Which other tech upgrades can we expect as the platform grows?

Our Android app originally only supported smartphones and tablets – it wasn’t optimised for large screens and remote input so didn’t work well with Android boxes. We added formal Android TV support in May 2016. In terms of tech upgrades, we’ve been steadily adding support for new devices (e.g. Xbox) and upgrading our existing apps with new functionality, improved usability, etc.. I’d expect to continue to see more of that type of development, along with some bigger picture projects like improved data efficiency (better codecs).

2. Which platforms do most of your customers use to access Showmax ? (Both General and Kenya).

The overall viewing patterns we see in Kenya are similar to those elsewhere: roughly 1/3 mobile (smartphone and tablet), 1/3 lean-back (smart TV, media players), and 1/3 laptop and PC.

Mobile app usage in Kenya is very much skewed towards Android. Smart TV usage has been relatively slow to take off – what we’re seeing instead is increasing use of media players (e.g. Android TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox, PS4) being used to watch on non-smart TVs. Laptop driving a non-smart TV via HDMI cable is also popular.

3. Which partnerships do you see yourselves getting into to push uptake of Showmax in Kenya?

Data, data, data. Getting more affordable mobile data is absolutely crucial so that’s our big focus.We’re currently working with Safaricom and the Wananchi Group (Zuku)

4. Congratulations for the success of the ‘Flesh Business’. Which other local productions can we look forward to in the near future?

We’ve got a number of things on the go including leveraging our sister-company relationship with Maisha Magic, thanks to which we’ll be adding new seasons of Sue na Jonnie to complement the new season broadcast launch on 6th Aug, and we’re introducing Selina S1 to complement S2 broadcast launch on 13th August.

5. What has the uptake of Showmax been like in Kenya and which content are people drawn to the most?

We’ve established Showmax as one of the best-known OTT video services in Kenya, which is an accomplishment I’m proud of. The challenge when it comes to uptake is the cost of data relative to the cost of the OTT services themselves – it’s something that’s limiting the entire industry.

Looking at what people are watching, it’s hard to pick out any specific genres – we really do see viewing split across the entire offering of kids shows, international series, movies, local shows and documentaries.

6. What are some of the key highlights after your launch in Kenya?

Setting up our team in Nairobi, tailoring our content for the local market, delivering partnerships with various data providers, and of course gaining lots of viewers to give Showmax a try.

7. What is the reception by users to your first on Showmax content?

It’s brilliant – we see big spikes every time we add first and only on Showmax content. Some current big performers are Siren and Younger (S5). We’re busy ramping things up – in August we’ve got some huge firsts, one of which is HBO’s Succession which I’m particularly excited about.

8. Is the download feature popular with users here?

I think downloads are still somewhat of a hidden gem in terms of product features. People seem to get the usage case when it comes to long journeys, particularly people who fly often, and also keeping kids entertained while on the move, but I wouldn’t say it’s become a daily habit yet. We need to re-look at how we highlight this feature for consumers.

9. What do you see as the future of Showmax in Kenya?

Kenya is one of the most exciting and best developed OTT video markets in Africa. Kenyans are tech-savvy – that’s not an issue – the main thing we need for OTT video to go properly mainstream is to get cheaper data solutions. I’m confident that’s coming. So for me, the future for Showmax in Kenya is we become a core entertainment provider for more people, and as usage grows we plow more and more back into local content in a virtuous circle.

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