JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's Naspers unit Showmax has expanded its video streaming services into 36 African countries where it aims to lure viewers with a mix of local and international content, the company said on Friday.
Naspers' video on demand service was launched in August last year ahead of global competitor Netflix's entry into Africa's most industrialized country in January, setting up a race for the rest of the continent.
Showmax has expanded into Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal and Mauritius and plans to offer content in the Swahili language spoken widely in eastern Africa as well as shows from Nigeria's film industry.
Showmax's head of products Barron Ernst said in a statement that low download speeds and the high cost of access were significant hurdles for internet-based services in Africa, but the company had designed its application to download content and view it later while offline.
The company said it is hoping to capitalize on the rapid uptake of smartphones and improving telecommunications infrastructure on the continent.
"The growth potential of the African market is huge, and we're not the only internet TV service looking to meet that demand," said Ernst.
(Reporting by TJ Strydom; Editing by James Macharia)