Viusasa is the newest SVOD service provider in the Kenyan market. Owned by Royal Media Services and launched hardly two months ago, the video on demand platform has become the most growing SVOD platform in Kenya as judged by the number of downloads the App has received in Google Play in those two months.
The other SVOD services particularly for movies and TV series available locally are Netflix, ShowMax and iFlix. It is difficult to get data on how these other SVOD service providers have performed locally in the years/months they have been available, but ShowMax and iFlix can provide an indication on their performance as ShowMax is largely an African service, whereas iFlix is available in a few selected African and Asian countries.
Although we do not know exact ShowMax numbers in terms of subscriptions, the download data from Google Play that places the download numbers somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 can be used to estimate the downloads in Kenya alone to be somewhere around 10,000. The estimate is based on the fact that the 500,000 to 1,000,000 downloads are global downloads which come from about 65 countries in Africa, Europe, Australia, and North America.
The same reasoning, when applied to Netflix and iFlix, also indicate way less local downloads for those International SVODs, despite Netflix enjoying global downloads of between 100,000,000 and 500,000,000 whereas iFlix enjoys global downloads of between 10,000,000 and 50,00,000.
When Netflix, ShowMax and iFlix enjoy less than 10,000 local downloads each, the new kid on the block Viusasa has managed to rack in downloads between 100,000 and 500,000 in less than two months. If we assume that total Viusasa downloads have reached 200,000, then we can see that the service has been achieving an average of 100,000 downloads per month. This is about a hundred times the monthly download rate Netflix, ShowMax and iFlix have enjoyed.
When I first saw the download figures of Viusasa I was very surprised, given that by the time the service was being launched I didn’t give it much consideration, as I thought there isn’t really any particular appetite for vernacular shows that are central to Viusasa. Second important content for Visuasa are the old Shows like Tahidi High, Inspector Mwala, Papa Shirandula, Machachari and others that aired in Citizen TV that I also thought no one would be interested in re-watching. The third category of Shows available in Viusasa are newly produced but Viusasa exclusive general Swahili and English Shows that are well, not so unique.
But the more than 100,000 downloads per month that Viusasa has registered proves me totally wrong; that probably their approach to include vernacular content (mind you they are vernacular content for people with smartphones and can afford data bundles) and the previously aired Citizen TV shows is exactly what Kenyans have been waiting for.
The second thing that Viusasa has done differently is to cup the Shows at 2-15 minutes per episode, and I believe this has been done so as to ensure data consumers are encouraged to watch the short shows that would consume minimal data per sitting. Even the old Shows like Inspector Mwala that are normally 20-22 minutes long per episode have been cut further to smaller sub-episodes of about 10 minutes each.
Lastly and probably the most important thing is the aggressive marketing Royal Media Service has given their SVOD service through their TV and Radio outlets. The aggressive campaigns has of course created curiosity among Royal Media Service fans who end up downloading the App. It is however difficult to ascertain just how many of those who have downloaded the App have ended up subscribing, as Viusasa does not offer a trial period where new subscribers can test the platform for free before deciding to pay for the service.
As things stand now, the three approaches taken by Viusasa will mean that the SVOD service will become the most popular SVOD provider in Kenya, at least until Internet access become truly affordable or until Netflix, ShowMax and iFlix decide to also aggressively embrace local content, engage in thorough marketing, and further find ways of ensuring mobile data is not an hindrance to access of their respective content.