In a surprising move, Amazon Prime Video has announced changes to its operations in Africa and the Middle East. According to a report from Variety, the streaming giant will be downsizing its teams in these regions and shifting its focus to European originals.
As part of this shift, Prime Video will no longer be contracting shows in the African and Middle Eastern markets, but any ongoing productions will continue as planned. Additionally, the company plans to reorganize its European team into two groups: the EU Established and the EU Emerging. The Established team will oversee operations in the U.K., Germany, Italy, France, and Spain, while the Emerging team will focus on Benelux, the Nordics, and Central and Eastern Europe.
“We’ve been carefully looking at our business to ensure we continue to prioritize our resources on what matters most to customers,” said Prime Video Europe VP Barry Furlong in an email to staff.
“I have carefully evaluated our structure in the region and decided to make some adjustments to our operating model to rebalance and pivot our resources to focus on the areas that drive the highest impact and long-term success.”
In a surprising shift of events, this announcement comes just months after Prime Video had expressed its intention to become a leading streaming player in Africa. It had signed multi-year licensing agreements with production companies and even set up operations in Nigeria and South Africa to strengthen its presence in the region.
Interestingly, Prime Video’s entry into the African market in 2016 was part of its global expansion to over 200 countries, posing a significant threat to Netflix’s simultaneous global launch. However, until recently, the service lacked localization and original content offerings tailored to the preferences and expectations of the African audience. But its recent launch in Nigeria aimed to bridge this gap and cater to local viewers.
As the third-largest streaming platform in Africa, Prime Video had planned to increase its subscriber base in emerging markets by offering localized plans, similar to those introduced in South Africa. However, it had not yet commissioned any original content in the Middle East. This strategy included increased investment in local production, unveiling slates of localized originals, and offering discounted Amazon Prime memberships to customers.
The platform’s foray into Africa for original and licensed content was met with success and critical acclaim, with titles like Breath of Life and Gangs of Lagos achieving commercial and critical success, respectively. At its peak, Prime Video had over 600,000 subscribers in Africa and plans to add 1.5 million new subscribers over the next four years, according to Digital TV Research.
However, with this sudden exit from the competition for Africa’s projected 15 million video-on-demand subscribers by 2026, a significant void is left in the streaming landscape. Competing platforms like Netflix, Disney+, Canal+, and Showmax now have an opportunity to capitalize on Prime Video’s absence and potentially gain market share in the ongoing streaming war for African content and viewership. This significant development could reshape the dynamics of the region’s streaming industry, which has proven challenging to make profitable.