Netflix and ShowMax rival Iflix, which is promising a lower-cost alternative video-on-demand service, will be launched in South Africa and six other African countries, including Kenya and Nigeria.
The company, which until now has focused on Southeast Asia, has aggressive plans to expand in Africa, according to regional marketing director Jo Eyre. (No exact timing is available yet for the South African launch.)
This is likely to put it on a collision course with the Naspers-owned ShowMax, with also focuses on emerging markets.
Speaking to TechCentral from Johannesburg on Wednesday, Eyre said Iflix will be aimed mainly at mobile users, but will also cater to those with fixed broadband at home.
Bloomberg reported earlier on Wednesday that Iflix has raised US$90m (about R1,2bn) in a round led by telecommunications giants Liberty Global and Kuwait-based Zain to take on Netflix and Naspers in Africa and the Middle East.
The investment will also fund expansions throughout Asia, the company said. According to Bloomberg, Iflix is available in nine countries in Southeast Asia, providing a mix of Hollywood and local programming. It has more than 5m customers in those markets, and is now eyeing Africa and the Middle East as its next big opportunity for expansion.
In an interview, co-founder and chairman Patrick Grove told Bloomberg that Iflix has succeeded by positioning itself as a cheap alternative to piracy. Pricing is aggressive — in Malaysia it costs just $1,80/month (R23,50/month), compared to Netflix, where plans start at about $8/month (R105/month). ShowMax costs R99/month. Iflix is expected to cost between $2,50 and $3/month in African markets.
The company prefers to work in partnership with mobile operators to bring its offerings to market, usually sold as bundles as part of telecoms plans. This helps Iflix reduce marketing costs, while helping operators improve the customer retention rates.
Iflix has approached its entry into Africa fairly quietly to date. But it has already established a head office in Cape Town, along with offices in Johannesburg, Nairobi, Accra and Lagos. The Cape Town office has about 25 employees, with eight in Johannesburg.
Eyre said South Africans — and users in the other African markets where Iflix will be launched — can look forward to a mix of Hollywood and local and regional content. “There will be plenty of African content in there,” she said, adding that Iflix is talking to content producers in various markets.
The gap in Africa is for a video-on-demand platform at a low cost that appeals to mobile users, Eyre said. The company is promising “awesome” video quality, even on 3G connections, thanks to advanced compression technology. “ShowMax and Netflix are doing an awesome job, but they are very much focused on the top of the pyramid. We are trying to plug the gap [lower down]with a service that is optimised for mobile.”
However, Iflix will also target higher-end users with high-speed fixed Internet connections at home, she said. — © 2017 NewsCentral Media