Netflix recently announced its partnership with Kwesé Media in South Africa, the first official partnership of its kind in the country.
Kwesé is a subsidiary of Econet, the company which owns Liquid Telecom.
The companies said it will be a long-term partnership spanning sub-Saharan Africa, aimed at making it easier for users to enjoy Netflix.
Kwesé will also develop partnerships with telecoms operators across sub-Saharan Africa to distribute Kwesé TV and Netflix.
The first partnership activity was the launch of Netflix on the Kwesé Play streaming box.
Although Netflix does not have a physical presence here, its services have been available to South Africans since its global launch.
Subscriptions are $7.99, $9.99, or $11.99 per month, depending on the package you choose. One challenge, however, is that you needed a credit card or PayPal account to subscribe to Netflix.
The partnership with Kwesé changes that, with integrated billing in rand available on the Kwesé platform.
More users on Netflix
Chris Whiteley, a business development director at Netflix, told MyBroadband that the partnership will open the way for more South Africans to get Netflix.
He said Netflix would like to add more local currencies to make it easier for people to join Netflix, and will rely on partnerships to localise its offering in African markets.
Netflix currently has no plans to add support for rand outside the partnership, however, or to offer a cheaper subscription fee in South Africa, said Whiteley.
Many South African subscribers who joined Netflix, using VPNs, before it was available globally have complained that the local version of the service does not have the same variety of content as in the US.
These subscribers expressed frustration that Netflix charges the same prices in South Africa as it does in the US, despite the smaller catalogue.
Whiteley told MyBroadband that due to video content licensing, Netflix cannot offer all the content in all the countries it is available.
That is part of the reason Netflix has focused on producing original shows and movies, as it can release these globally at the same time.
This includes upcoming films such as Bright, starring Will Smith, which Whiteley said will challenge conventional wisdom on theatrical movie releases.
Whiteley said they are also putting consumers’ interests first, as “Netflix consumers fund the movie, so they shouldn’t have to wait to see it”.
Whiteley said Netflix will continue to add new content to its service, some of which may be available in South Africa but not in the US – like Star Trek.
A new show based in the Star Trek universe called Star Trek: Discovery started airing on Netflix outside the US from 25 September – due to CBS holding onto its rights to broadcast the series on its streaming platform.
Whiteley added that instead of reducing the price of Netflix in markets like South Africa, its strategy is to continually add more great shows and movies – offering increased value for money.