Naspers launches South African video-on-demand service

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 19 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Naspers on Wednesday announced a move into the video-on-demand market in Africa’s most advanced economy, saying it will have a “fighting chance” when U.S. rival Netflix launches there.

Showmax, Naspers’ video-on-demand unit, will use a mix of international and local content to build a base of subscribers, its general manager John Kotsaftis told a briefing.

Naspers will focus on the 1 million households in South Africa with good Internet speeds first and assess opportunities on the rest of the continent later, Kotsaftis said.

“We have a platform that is completely scalable, but right now it is only about South Africa,” he said.

Naspers’s Multichoice unit supplies digital satellite television services on the rest of the continent.

Other companies such as Times Media Group have introduced Netflix’s model of subscription-based viewing on-demand in South Africa with its VIDI service and said on Wednesday in a statement it offers 3,500 television episodes and 400 movies.

Naspers is entering the market with 19,000 episodes, said Kotsaftis, who also described the move as “a long play”.

“I can’t tell you what will happen when they move in here,” Kotsaftis said, referring to Netflix.

It is not clear when U.S. company will enter South Africa, but it said in January it would complete an expansion to around 200 countries within two years.

“We are focusing on South Africa in a way Netflix will not be focusing,” he said, pointing to content in local languages going back more than two decades. (Reporting by TJ Strydom, editing by David Evans)