Naspers-owned video-on-demand platform ShowMax has made its debut in a European country, launching services in Poland on 15 February 2017.
The Warsaw-based team responsible for the expansion is led by former YouTube and Polish television executive Maciej Sojka.
The new service is closely tailored to local needs with a strong focus on Polish content, including original productions commissioned by ShowMax, the company said in a statement.
Naspers is no stranger to the Polish market, having invested in online marketplace Allegro back in 2008 in a US$1,5bn deal. It sold Allegro last year for $3,3bn to funds advised by private equity firm Cinven, Permira and Mid Europa.
ShowMax said it has tailored its service specifically for Poland, with local TV shows and movies forming part of the catalogue.
Poland has a vibrant TV and film production industry, and for launch ShowMax has acquired exclusive rights to a range of popular local shows including political satire Ucho Prezesa as well as a catalogue of the most sought-after movies by Polish directors, it said. These include the 2016 box office hits Pitbull and Planeta Singli. Plans are also underway for original productions.
ShowMax CEO John Kotsaftis said the Polish market is exciting as it has a population of 38m, 7m of whom are already paying for online video (although some of this is paid for access to pirate sites).
The key to success is catering to local needs. To deliver on this and be close to the market, we chose to set up operations in Warsaw, headed up by a respected Polish pay-TV and Internet TV pioneer (Sojka). This team is aggressively developing a strong portfolio of local content including commissioning original productions.
Sojka, who has been hired to set up and run ShowMax Poland, ran YouTube partnerships for Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Prior to that, he set up the 24-hour news channel TVN24 before moving on to the role of CEO of a satellite pay-TV platform owned by ITI Neovision.
ShowMax Polands executive team also includes Grzegorz Esz as head of marketing (ex-UPC Polska and T-Mobile) and Jerzy Dzięgielewski as head of content (ex-HBO Central Europe).
Poland is an interesting market in that local content features heavily on pirate sites, with many of these sites actually charging for access. In fact, pirate sites account for a significant portion of all online video revenue, said Kotsaftis. This suggests theres an appetite among consumers to pay for a legitimate Polish service with good content.
On ShowMaxs plan to create original Polish programming, Kotsaftis said: Were looking hyper-local. Were not trying to compete with prohibitively expensive shows designed to appeal to audiences worldwide. Instead, we think theres strong demand for local content that only works at the local level.
ShowMax was first launched in South Africa 18 months ago. Since then, it has been made available in markets across Africa.