The new African spy thriller from Netflix wants to take the world by storm


"Queen Sono" is the first African original series commissioned by Netflix (NFLX)This is part of the efforts of the streaming service to increase the attractiveness for the viewers there, according to the analysts. Netflix plans to expand in Africa as it approaches a "saturation point" for subscriptions in many developed countries, says Constantinos Papavassilopoulos. a deputy director at the market research company IHS Markit.

"Queen Sono" is "a kaleidoscope of African art expression," said Dorothy Ghettuba, director of International Originals for Africa at Netflix. "It shows an African aesthetic on screen that the rest of the world has never seen … exploring the origins of contemporary trends with African eyes and the wealth of ideas this vast continent has to offer."

The main character is "an African heroine at the time," says Kagiso Lediga, the South African creator of the series.

The series is said to be a pan-African thriller that is an entertaining and intelligent political drama, Lediga says.

"If it speaks to all Africans, it speaks to the world," he says. "These people and stories have always been there, but have never been considered viable by a global audience."

Netflix plans further projects in the region. "Shadow", a smaller South African production that was commissioned after the premiere of "Queen Sono" last March. In April, Netflix announced its first original African animation, "Mama K & # 39; s Team 4," about four girls in a futuristic Zambia, and a South African teenage drama, "Blood & Water," is in the works.

Netflix has also purchased high-quality "Nollywood" films (Nigerians), including "Lionheart" and "Chief Daddy". According to Papavassilopoulos, Nollywood films are usually cheap, but Netflix is ​​ready to spend money on "top-notch drama" with "export potential".

Netflix does not publish subscription numbers specifically for Africa, but reported in December that 47.4 million subscribers were registered in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research in London, estimates that 1.41 million subscribers are employed in sub-Saharan Africa, mainly South Africa. Five million are expected by 2025.

Big chance

Africa is a "growing" market, "says Murray. His firm expects Internet and TV revenue in sub-Saharan Africa to exceed $ 1 billion by 2024 (up from $ 223 million in Year 2018) and nearly 20 million subscribers by 2023 (from 1.56 million in 2017).

The market remains largely undeveloped due to the "low penetration with high quality content services", according to Papavassilopoulos.

"Even though there is a global demand for Hollywood content, people always want to see local stars and local products," added Murray. "You need to update your content regularly to keep subscribers and attract new subscribers."

Queen Sono, who was shot in 37 locations, follows the eponymous secret agent while devoting herself to the protection of Africa after the assassination attempt on her mother.

Overcome obstacles

However, the range of appealing content only goes so far – the "real battleground" is customer accessibility, says Papavassilopoulos, who notes that only around 40 percent of households in sub-Saharan Africa have a TV.

One obstacle to streaming services is the low broadband penetration in Africa, which according to the World Bank averaged only 25 percent in 2018.

An associated challenge is the relatively high cost of mobile data, says Murray. Data is less affordable in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else in the world and, according to the GSMA, which represents mobile operators worldwide, costs an average of 6.8 percent of monthly income. In high-income countries, data averages only 0.5 percent of monthly income.
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To reduce data costs, Netflix has launched a mobile tool that allows users to control their data usage and reduce usage by downloading content for offline viewing.

Local partnerships are also being established to facilitate digital payments in countries where this is unusual. Customers with South African telecommunications providers Telkom and Vodacom can add their subscriptions to existing bills.

According to Papavassilopoulos, Netflix could eventually cut subscription fees and introduce pure cell phone deals, which has already happened in India. This makes the service more affordable and is suitable for countries in sub-Saharan Africa where mobile communications are the only infrastructure available for display.

The competition

Netflix has to stand out from its competitors in the region.

African competitors include the South African company Showmax, which offers simple digital payments through a local partner and package deals with a domestic satellite service that customers can use to save money.

The Nigerian company IrokoTV has brand kiosks where viewers can download films to their cell phones and watch them later. This saves data costs and hires local sellers who can reach customers in a way that Netflix doesn't offer.

In the long term, it remains to be seen how Netflix will hold its own against its American rivals on the continent. In November, Apple TV + launched in 12 African countries, including South Africa, Uganda, Mozambique, Ghana, Niger and Zimbabwe. Netflix has been available in all 54 African countries since 2016. Amazon Prime is not yet active in Africa and Disney Plus has no official launch date.

It will take some time until all components are available in the region. If so, Netflix hopes to dominate.