If there is one thing we picked from the 2018 World Cup in Russia is that video streaming of entertainment content in developing countries is approaching mainstream.
As Internet penetration continues to skyrocket and the price of Internet enabled devices and data reduces, more people in developing countries today are live-streaming their entertainment demands.
This has been evidenced by the growing popularity of video streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and Showmax among young people in developing countries.
These platforms appeal especially to young people because of their vast repositories that offer content from across the globe at a few keystrokes. Netflix users alone collectively watch over 1 billion hours of content each week while it would take over 60,000 years to watch everything on YouTube.
These stats were demonstrated during the just concluded World Cup where millions of people across the world plugged in to catch up with the exhilarating action from 64 matches across stadiums in Russia.
Analysis by Internet traffic monitoring site Akamai indicate that it took just ten days to surpass the previous video streaming record set at the 2014 World Cup. By the end of the group stage, Akamai had streamed 65% more data from start to finish than it did in Brazil four years earlier.
Akamai reported the highest number of concurrent streams peaking at 9.7 million during the Mexico v/s Sweden match at the same time as South Korea lined up against Germany on 27 June.
This, compared to the 5 million viewing peak for the entire 2014 World Cup matches indicates an unprecedented rise in the number of online viewers from developing countries. The peak bandwidth for streaming in the first round in Russia was 23.8 Tbps, compared with 6.99 Tbps during Brazil’s World Cup.
Kwese and Kwese iflix, one of the continent’s fastest growing streaming services, has developed video streaming partnerships with mobile network operators across Africa (during the world cup season) and according to Mr. Ben Roberts, CTO of Liquid Telecom, the number of number of video streaming customers has risen as a result.
Telecommunications service provider Liquid Group provides host infrastructure for Kwese and Kwese iflix and Mr. Roberts noted that “Streaming is steadily growing, getting more and more each day”. “The most popular was the Nigeria vs Argentina (not surprising), but also Germany and Brazil’s last game of the first stage exceeded previous games.”
However Mr. Roberts states streaming among African users has been heavier on matters that touch closer home.
“It’s not the biggest ‘internet event’ in Africa we have seen this year, with the traffic around the coup in Zimbabwe and subsequent resignation of Robert Mugabe being something that turned up the traffic on all channels and links across Africa to a very noticeable degree,” he said.
This means while African consumers demand and are ready to spend on video streaming, the lack of local content is a gap that provides opportunities for developers and creators.
More than 90 percent of African Internet content is hosted outside the continent and this means server request from the continent take much longer because they have to go through exchange points in Europe or North America. Currently more than 57 percent of Kenya’s web content is hosted in North America and 25 per cent in Europe with just 10 per cent in Africa according to data from Alexa.
This implies a longer turnaround for connectivity requests at the same time and slower download speeds.
Some streaming service providers have tried to create local hosting sites. Early last year ShowMax signed a partnership with SEACOM to have its servers hosted in Nairobi to better serve its East African audiences.
This is however only a stopgap measure because the content available to users is still largely North American and European. African content creators need to rise up to the challenge of providing the entertainment needs of a hungry, tech savvy and discerning population.