Streaming platforms are partnering with mobile operators to expand in new markets while helping users save on some of the world’s highest data costs.
By Conrad Onyango, bird story agency
With African superstars taking to global music stages and a growing army of young mobile subscribers – consisting largely of Gen Z’s – among the most ardent African music fans, homegrown and foreign streaming platforms are pushing hard to build their presence in a growing market.
Until recently, one of the biggest challenges for streamers has been high data costs and few payment options.
But there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Streamers are now increasingly partnering with mobile operators to overcome expansion hurdles, offering incentives like free access to premium content and attractive offers on data plans.
A partnership between one of Africa’s largest mobile operators, Orange with giant music streaming platform Spotify is the latest such collaboration.
Orange and Spotify said their pact will offer complimentary data bonuses to mobile users in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and Mali and very soon in Guinea, to allow fans to enjoy free music.
“We are aware that data costs continue to be a hindrance for people who would like to stream music, that’s why we are actively working at Spotify SSA on partnerships like this one," said Jocelyne Muhutu-Remy, Managing Director for Spotify in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Parts of Africa have some of the highest global data costs, even after the cost of 1GB dropped from US$6.44 on average in 2021 to US$4.47 in 2022, according to Statista, with some countries offering amongst the lowest rates globally. Factors including high taxes and poor infrastructure have been linked to the most costly data plans.
In a joint statement, Orange and Spotify also affirmed their recognition of the central role of music in African entertainment.
“This collaboration presents an opportunity for Spotify to leverage Orange's extensive mobile user base to promote local talents and expand their reach,” said Brelotte Ba, Deputy CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa.
Orange and Spotify had a similar arrangement in Egypt in 2022, offering customers up to 12 months of free access to premium music content.
Spotify, with an extensive collection of over 82 million tracks, has a global community of over 551 million monthly active listeners, with 220 million subscribers.
In September 2022, Africa-focused music streamer Boomplay partnered with Tigo, a Tanzanian telco, to offer free hours of music streaming to subscribers who purchase Tigo bundles. In addition, subscribers enjoyed an up to 30% discount on Boomplay's subscription plans.
In Nigeria, Boomplay partnered with MTN Nigeria to offer subscribers tailored data plans that provide unlimited music streaming and access to premium content on Boomplay at affordable rates. In March 2023, Boomplay partnered with Halotel, another Tanzanian mobile operator, to offer a similar arrangement to its subscribers.
Boomplay, a joint venture between two Chinese companies, Transsion and Netease, boasts over 65 million monthly active users and a catalogue of over 70 million songs. The service has regional offices in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Cote d'Ivoire, and Cameroon.
Kenya-based mobile music streamer Mdundo, which advertises 1.9 million songs and over 100,000 African artists, is also banking on its huge partnership arrangements with major telecom providers including Vodacom in Tanzania, Airtel in Nigeria, and MTN in Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa to grow its subscriber base in its five core markets.
“These partnerships collectively reach an extensive customer base of 185 million people, enabling Mdundo.com to address the low usage of payment cards in Africa and deliver enhanced value to its users,” the company said in its Annual Report 2023.
The company's five key markets comprising Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and South Africa have a combined population of 422 million people. As of June 2023, these markets accounted for 15 million of Mdundo’s 26.6 million monthly active users.
Mdundo said in the report that 80% of all music consumed in these markets is African, with nearly 500,000 songs directly uploaded by over 140,000 African creators.
Streamer deals with telcos don't end with music. In May, video-on-demand streamer, Wi-flix partnered with MTN to offer access to hours of unlimited premium content and data plans as part of its expansion to Zambia. Wi-Flix said it had already seen success with similar deals in Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria and was looking to replicate the same in Zambia.
Wi-Flix Founder, Louis Manu said the partnership would play a significant role in its ambition to become the leading content provider for the African continent and the diaspora.
“This provides us the opportunity to leverage on their recently deployed 5G high-speed internet connectivity to ensure the experience of subscribers is more seamless and exciting,” Manu said.
GSMA data projects the number of unique mobile subscribers in Africa will rise by 4.5 per cent to 613 million as smartphone ownership grows to 61 per cent by 2025 from the current 49 per cent.
bird story agency