Last Monday, streaming giant Netflix announced that it would start offering free mobile streaming in Kenya. Users will have access to about a quarter of TV shows and movies as a part of a strategy aimed at sparking growth in a key African market.
The plan will be available only on Android phones, the most common type of phone in Kenya and Africa as a whole. It will also not have ads and will offer popular movies and TV shows such as “Money Heist” and “Bridgeton” plus African series like “Blood & Water.”
The free plan is intended to attract new users who Netflix hopes will be enticed to sign up for a paid option to access more content.
The move is part of the world’s number one strategy to diversify its market from more saturated markets like the United States and Western Europe. Netflix has witnessed significant drops in these markets after a high during the COVID period. Now, as economies open up and people go back to the big screen, viewing numbers are beginning to drop. This has also been made worse by increasing competition from new players like Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and HBO Max.
Despite these hurdles, Netflix remains bullish on the future and are betting on new unexplored regions for growth. Africa is a prime target. This is partly due to the fact that many people in Sub-Saharan Africa haven’t been exposed to streaming television. This will also be helped by the fact that the region’s internet and mobile penetration keeps increasing year by year. As it stands today, over 170 million people in the region have access to the internet, a figure that is estimated to continue to rise especially because it represents just 18 per cent of the total population.
This free plan is especially motivated as Kenya is number one in the whole continent in terms of internet connectivity, with up to 85.2 % of the population having stable access.
Netflix is also currently investing in locally made programming such as “Jiva” and “Queen Sono” as part of their African charm offensive.
In a blog post, Cathy Conk, the direction of product innovation at Netflix says:
“If you’ve never watched Netflix before — and many people in Kenya haven’t — this is a great way to experience our service. And if you like what you see, it’s easy to upgrade to one of our paid plans so you can enjoy our full catalogue on your TV or laptop as well.”
Having been launched last Monday the plan has slowly been rolled across Kenya all throughout the week. The company will also likely partner with telecom partners Safaricom whose mobile payment platform Mpesa is the most popular means of payment in the country. Speaking as a Netflix user in Kenya, a partnership with Mpesa will make it much easier for users to subscribe to Netflix and any other streaming giant, who currently rely on debit/credit cards.
According to a spokesperson, non-paying Netflix subscribers in Kenya would not be included in the paid total in the company quarterly reports.
This is however not the first time Netflix has given free offers. In 2020 some episodes of series such as “Stranger Things” and movies such as “To all the Boys I’ve Loved” were offered free all around the world.
However, according to the company spokesperson, the free plan in Kenya would be a little broader. It will have the look and feel of a paid Netflix plan with shows not included marked with a lock icon. This is predicted to entice the user to pay for the plan.
Functions such as the ability to download a movie or a show will also be only be restricted to paying customers.
With a reported 209 million subscribers, the continent’s current 6.62 million subscribers represent just a small percentage. However, as pointed out earlier there is a lot of room for growth and Netflix is prepared to spearhead this new venture.