Netflix has expanded into 54 African nations, furthering its global reach. At the same time, Netflix is extending service to regions where Internet access is at 20 percent, the world’s lowest.
The rise in cell phone usage has helped connect an estimated 300 million Africans to the Internet. But widespread connectivity problems and high data bills have made on demand video services less feasible for many. It is difficult for services like Netflix to gain momentum in areas that have problems connecting to the Internet.
Another video on demand company, iRoko TV, has switched to a mobile-first platform, making its product download-only and Android driven. The company, often referred to as the Netflix of Africa, is also working on technology that can compress videos into smaller files, which will allow them to deliver data quickly to any device with broadband abilities.
“The infrastructure, generally, isn’t really here for streaming long-form content,” founder of iRoko TV, Jason Njoku, told Variety. “For millions, the data price-points are way too high to pay for content streaming.”
The amount of data required to use Netflix for one hour can cost the user $4 in developing countries, says State Salem Log. This can translate to $250 each month. However, African users are attracted to the service because video content is offered at cheaper rates than the same content shown on cable networks, State Salem Log reports. Companies are trying to stay ahead of the game, with the hopes that falling data costs and increased Internet connection speeds will create more demand for video on demand services.
Marie Lora-Mungai, co-founder and CEO of African studio Restless Media, who is involved with streaming service Buni.tv, told Variety, “Netflix might be worse equipped than local VOD providers to deal with local infrastructural challenges, in that they traditionally don’t modify their platform to adapt to the specificities of local markets.”
Netflix expanded into 130 countries this January and even shot its first original film in Ghana earlier this year.
– Kaitlyn Arford