Netflix sees the opening of new crime-drama series Queen Sono as the first of many original African TV series that will win the US giant a bigger slice of a market still dominated by satellite TV.
The tale of a South African secret agent seeking to uncover the truth behind the death of her freedom-fighter mother will be followed by a Zambian animation series, a Cape Town-set mystery thriller and an as-yet-untitled Nigerian production. They’ve all been commissioned by Dorothy Ghettuba, a Kenyan producer hired by Netflix last year to seek out content from the continent of more than a billion people.
“We are diving all in when it comes to Africa we are not just dipping our toes,” Ghettuba said in an interview in Johannesburg ahead of a glitzy premiere to mark the launch of Queen Sono a week ago. “Africans like to see themselves on screen, and Africa has a big population that wants to see their stories represented.”
While Netflix already provides financing for locally produced content in other parts of the world, it’s been slower to target Africa. The continent is only just getting the Internet speeds and affordable data prices needed to convince viewers to switch from traditional television at a rate that makes the investment viable.
Revenue generated by African subscription video-on-demand services was US$183-million last year, yet is expected to increase seven-fold to more than $1-billion by 2025, according to a report by Digital TV Research.
Netflix’s chief rival is Showmax, owned by South African pay-TV giant MultiChoice Group, while Amazon.com has a small presence in the region, the report shows. Disney+ is expected to launch in Africa in 2022.