It was on the M1 when I first witnessed a giant Disney+ billboard. After my initial moments of euphoria, my love affair ended as I began to ponder. The subject of this contemplation pertained to the impact this encroachment of streaming platforms, such as Disney plus and Netflix, could have on the South African television industry.
The encroachment of streaming services within South Africa could be financially detrimental to the South African media industry's survival unless the government enforces regulatory mechanisms that mitigate the ramifications of lost revenues.
The media industry may witness a reduced market share, and this may, unfortunately, contribute to the formation of oligopolies within the media space. The likelihood of oligopolies is high because these streaming platforms have a competitive advantage, in terms of cost, quality, quantity, and clout. This advantage enables them to offer quality entertainment at rates that the local industry would find difficult to compete with.
The incentive for the expansion of Disney plus is not philanthropically motivated because profit is their goal. This goal of reaching a profit is almost guaranteed, especially looking at the immense influence and reach Disney plus has.
It is not just Disney Plus, but Netflix and other forthcoming and current networks that are included in this conversation. These entities have the potential to create a powerful oligopoly that could potentially destroy indigenous content locally and globally.
The unfortunate seeds of colonisation and its perpetuation of “African backwardness” could be the guiding ethos that moulds the choices of people into preferring content from abroad, while neglecting their heritage. This then brings us to another key area of importance. This pertains to preserving the local industry.
Streaming platforms are the present and the future, and I am aware of the inevitable “passing of the baton” between programme television and streaming platforms. Despite this, we need to be empathetic about the ramifications this transition could have for the livelihoods of the local talent and companies. However, Netflix has tried to address these dangers by incorporating a few local shows, notably “Blood and Water”. But if the public decides to watch Korean drama instead, Netflix could not possibly coerce the public into supporting local productions.
Streaming platforms could be held accountable for their impact on local TV productions, and this could be implemented by incentivising collaborations between the local production companies and more. This approach could be legislatively enforced, with these entities legally bound to be inclusive.
The dilemma of choice remains because people may neglect the adoption of local content. Perhaps I am being too pessimistic, because these digital platforms could potentially promote local shows and build foreign fan bases too.
What do you think?
Blessing Mbalaka is an MA candidate, junior researcher and teaching assistant at the University of Johannesburg.
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