Sub-Saharan Africa will livestream all World Cup matches for the first time ever

Showmax Pro is streaming all 64 FIFA World Cup matches across 50 African nations in 4K ultra high-definition (UHD) screen resolution.
The latest FIFA rankings rate Senegal as the top team in Africa. 
The latest FIFA rankings rate Senegal as the top team in Africa. 
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For the first time ever, football lovers in sub-Saharan Africa will watch all 64 matches in this year’s World Cup in 4K video resolution, thanks to South African streaming service Showmax.

Estimates predict that out of Africa’s 1.4 billion population, there will be 15 million video-streaming subscribers in Africa by 2026, and Showmax hopes by offering free World Cup matches this year, it will boost its user base as Disney+ and Netflix also scramble to attract African users. The streaming service will be available on smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart TVs, and smart boxes running on both Android and Apple operating systems.

FIFA World Cup global viewership

When the match between Qatar and Ecuador kicks off on Nov. 20 at the Al Bayt Stadium, soccer lovers in 50 African nations will get to watch their favorite teams compete, with FIFA estimating this year’s tournament will be viewed by 5 billion people, over 1.4 billion more than the 3.5 billion fans who watched in 2018.

Senegal, Cameroon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Ghana will be representing the continent at the world football stage, and Showmax is betting on the reducing cost of mobile internet and a higher smartphone penetration compared to the 2018 World Cup, to onboard more users onto its platform through the World Cup that ends on Dec. 18. The livestreaming link will be tapped from Supersport.

“You have to be a subscriber to Showmax Pro to access live sport. Live sport featured on Showmax Pro includes every game of the FIFA World Cup and all Premier League, Serie A, LaLiga, UEFA Europa, and UEFA Conference leagues,” Barry Dubovsky, COO for Connected Video at MultiChoice which owns Showmax and Supersport, tells Quartz.

Watching World Cup on demand will come at a cost

Yolisa Phahle, CEO of Connected Video at MultiChoice said in a press release that the company has “created the lowest data streaming option on the continent.” Phale adds that the 4K stream will be delivered in fine video pixilation and “will have up to 50 frames per second (fps), double the standard 25fps we currently offer.”

African viewers seeking to lower costs on mobile data can view the matches in High Definition (HD) format, with options for 1080, 720, and 480 resolutions that consume 300MBs, 100MBs, and 50MBs per hour respectively. The 4K resolution  will use around 90MBs per minute of streaming, translating to at least 8.1 GBs of data per match.

Showmax says the Pro plan allows subscribers to register up to five devices—including smart TVs, media boxes, and mobile devices—and stream simultaneously on two devices at the same time, but there is also a mobile-only plan that allows viewers to stream on a single mobile device.

Users can also select specific matches and set reminders to watch, and if they miss a match, they can watch its highlights on demand.

However, the cost of smartphones is keeping a majority of Africans offline, and those who own them have to contend with low internet speeds as only less than 15 nations have laid down plans to launch 5G networks, under which heavy video streaming works best.