Two years ago, I wrote an article on the explosion of online streaming in Kenya. This, I noted, has been due to a number of reasons, with the main one being the availability of fast broadband connectivity to most homes courtesy of players such as Zuku, Jamii Telcom and, lately, Safaricom’s fiber to homes.
This has, without a doubt, affected the growth of pay-TV companies such as Multichoice and Star Times, which target the same customers. In the same article, I wrote about the various Streaming Video On-Demand Video (SVOD) services that Kenyans are exploring. That was in 2015, before the launch of Showmax, which I discovered a few months ago.
Showmax launched in Kenya last year as a response by Naspers to this change in consumer behavior, and as a way of taming the growth of Netflix, an SVOD service that opened up its regional restrictions, allowing Kenyans to legally watch and even subscribe. (Naspers is a conglomerate media company owning major brands such as MultiChoice, M-Net, SuperSport, and DStv.)
I have been testing the Showmax service for a couple of weeks now and here’s my take.
I have been on GOtv for close to four years now, and it’s been a mixed bag of an offering. I am not much of a TV person. To be honest, I only keep subscribing to it for the kids. I am more into movies, documentaries and TV series, which GOtv is not very well known for.
I found the Kids category on Showmax much more diverse, as well as well-stocked on programming.
Some of my daughters’ favorite shows on Showmax are Dora the Explorer, Wonder Pets, Peppa Pig, Larva in New York, Angry Birds Toons and Kung Fu Panda.
Our kids are all below the age of seven, hence their selection. However, even if you have older kids in their pre-teens, shows like Phil of the Future, How to be Indie, Transformers, and Slugterra, among others, would be ideal for them.
As for my entertainment, I notice that Showmax has quite a few British shows, which I have come to prefer over American series, so this was a huge plus for me. Due to most Kenyans being weaned on American entertainment, you will hardly find a movie guy who is eccentric enough to have shows like The Missing, The Frankenstein Chronicles or Undercover in his collection.
What they can improve on
It would be great if they could do further sub-categorisation, especially in the Kids section, by age, to make it easier to find age-appropriate shows if my kids are below two years old, or between two to four years old, etc.
Our lifestyles no longer allow us to be home in time for a certain programme. The onus is now on media companies to work around our lives, and this means that we should be able to watch what we want when we want, and on whichever device suits us. This is why Showmax as an SVOD service works perfectly. As a parent, I have control over what my kids watch at what time, and what they watch it on.
If there is something I’ve always had an issue with where pay TV is concerned, It’s the constant repeats of the same shows. I cringe every time I see my girls watching the same episode of Sofia the First for the 20th time in a span of two months, and am often tempted to just switch the thing off. Although the kids don’t seem to notice it, I feel that there is very little value in paying for repeats.
The beauty with Showmax is that unless you purposefully choose to play the same episode more than once, you don’t have to put up with repeats.
Perhaps I should have started with this. If you have a broadband connection, you’re probably paying a standard rate every month whether you use your full data allocation or not (think of it in terms of leasing a pipe – whatever you pass through that pipe is purely up to you and you pay the same amount for it every month). That’s just how broadband connectivity works. So it’s better to get an SVOD service like Showmax at almost the same cost, if not at a lower cost to DStv premium (if you add the cost of internet to the Showmax subscription cost).
A Showmax subscription is priced at just KSh880 monthly. The service is available to smartphones, tablets, computers and smart TVs.
As I live in the outskirts of Nairobi where no broadband service is available yet, I have thus been using the Safaricom bundle package.
Download to watch offline
This is perhaps the most intuitive, neat feature that Showmax has and, if you don’t have very reliable internet connectivity, it comes in really handy. You can choose to either stream content or download up to 25 shows to watch offline.
This means that you can watch the shows you’ve downloaded for free, even if you don’t have an internet connection. But you will use data while downloading them unless you do so in a Wi-Fi hotspot. Downloaded content is valid for 30 days, and data usage for downloads is charged based on your data provider costs. To keep download and streaming costs low, though, you can choose to download or view shows on a lower quality setting on Showmax, which uses less data.
You can try their 14-day free trial without submitting your payment information (unlike Netflix). Users just enter their mobile number and receive an SMS with a voucher.
I am currently hooked on Undercover, a new BBC drama series with two of my favorite actors, Adrian Lester (who also plays Mickey in Hustle) and Sophie Okonedo. Just the kind of entertainment you need to keep you home under your duvet with a hot cup of drinking chocolate in this cold season.