Netflix switches off free mobile cinema

The lobby of Anga Cinema at Diamond Plaza is crowded with fans taking pictures with newly minted star on the Red Carpet of Instant Dad which premiered over the Weekend in Nairobi.

They mix freely with another set movie premier ‘Prayer for the Departed’ in the next hall of the movie theater indicating how Kenyan movie industry is rising as fans return to physical movie experience on the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This shift in viewership away from binge watching Netflix while working from home is changing how movies are channeled to audiences as streaming companies review their ‘pandemic’ offers with Netflix withdrawing free mobile plan.


Kenyan film industry has become very vibrant in recent times, and only today I leraned that our productions are called Riverwood! Apparently that’s Kenya’s equivalent to America’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood.

Shocker, right? I was inclined to think the naming was predominantly done by our good friends situated along River Road in CBD but how that is in relation to Kenya’s film industry, I have no idea.

Unlike a few years back when the only big movie to Kenya’s name was Nairobi Half-life, now we have a bigger selection to choose from, movies like Click Click Bang, Sincerely Daisy, Rafiki, Kati Kati and so many more have become live testaments of the good work the players in that industry portray.

Local production giants like Phil It productions who recently premiered their well acclaimed masterpiece Click Click Bang that’s featured on Netflix which is the biggest streaming platform globally and moves to show that it’s actually possible for more Kenyan movies to come up and to make the Riverwood name fly high just like our fuel prices.

It’s well known that Netflix has quite strict regulations and standards to air your films on their site, so when several Kenyan movies make it there it shows something is being done right.

Streaming giants

A notable contributor to the growing vibrance of the Kenyan film scene is Showmax, the Multichoice owned subscription video on demand (SVOD) platform that has been quite outstanding. The platform has looked to boost both local and regional content a lot for its viewers who have a preference for local content, with African films making up the majority of the top-streamed titles in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana last year for their platform.

Not to mean that Showmax doesn’t host a huge collection of international movies and series because it actually does.

In addition, they have had interesting marketing campaigns that have been quite attractive. The popular bucket and binge by KFC in partnership with showmax has been a good way to sell their services via people simply looking to satisfy their tummies with fried chicken and interestingly end up walking away with a free full month of Showmax viewership.

The unique approach by the streaming giant to propel its viewership by promoting local content has been an effective one and maybe an appeasing one. Its natural instinct to want to support your own, so when you see the widely publicized ads by Showmax for Crime and Justice, a series played by famous local actors Sarah Hassan and Alfred or The Second Family which includes widely acclaimed Tusker Project Fame Judge, Ian Mbugua, you get a peaked interest in seeing what they came up with this time.

“The Kenyan movie scene is growing, we’re seeing new faces and new shows almost each day. Showmax has been pivotal too in promoting local content, it has so many authentic African and Kenyan movies and series and in my opinion that’s great” Wendy Korir an Actress who played lead character called Bahati on Stinger which is yet another Kenyan Movie featured on Showmax, said to us during an interview with Maudhui House.

Introductory offers

Streaming sites have been able to push this content to billions of subscribers on cheap introductory offers that initially allowed users to share passwords and stream over multiple devices.

However as the Pandemic ended and viewers return to alterative entertainment, falling users have meant the packages have to make financial sense, which has seen streaming companies push up pricing hoping that with hooked audiences, sign-ups will outstrip cancellations.

In May Netflix launched ‘Paid Sharing’ a soft crackdown on password sharing in more than 100 countries, representing more than 80 percent of the streaming company’s revenue base.

Netflix which made $8.2 billion in quarter two revenues with an operating profit of $1.8 billion said returns in each region is now higher than pre-launch, with sign-ups already exceeding cancellations.

Now, the Netflix free mobile plan is being canceled and coming to an end effective this month.

Pay for mobile Netflix

By now most of the mobile free Netflix users have received an email notification from Netflix stating , that as of November 1st 2023, the mobile free plan will no longer be available and their membership will end. Those interested in consuming content on the platform would have to upgrade to the available packages. The lowest package is going for KES200 per month.

This follows after a successful 2-year free mobile plan by Netflix only accessible to the mobile phone or a tablet. The plan was launched in late 2021 and it enabled Kenyans to consume content on their devices without payment.

All they needed to be above 18, create a password and enjoy popular series and films.

The main aim for this free plan was to entice potential customers to the streaming platform and grow its viewership locally. Nevertheless, there is no explanation as to why the free plan subscription is being canceled. A Netflix spokesperson said without giving details, “We are going to continue to offer a variety of other plans”.

Limited edition

However the free subscription plan wasn’t entitled to all movies and contents, the package is in some ways limited compared to the paid plan. Same applies to different paid plans where the lowest is the mobile plan going for Kes200, the Basic going for Kes300, standard for Kes700 and the highest being the premium going for Kes1100.

The streaming revolution in Kenya is nothing short of remarkable, and at the heart of this  transformation lies the global streaming giant, Netflix. The emergence of Netflix in Kenya marked a turning point that not only brought the world of digital content to Kenyan audiences but also sparked a dynamic ecosystem of competitor streaming sites like Showmax, Amazon prime etc.

Netflix’s entry into the Kenyan market in 2016 played a pivotal role in raising awareness about the possibilities of on-demand streaming. The platform introduced viewers to a new era of entertainment where they could watch their favorite shows and movies at their convenience.

This newfound awareness created a surge in demand for streaming content, setting the stage for the rise of streaming competitors.

The service’s commitment to Kenyan content production cannot be understated. The release of original series like “Sincerely, Daisy” demonstrated that Kenyan stories and talent could shine on a global stage.

The success of these homegrown productions not only encouraged local filmmakers but also served as a testament to the viability of Kenya’s own streaming industry.

“Right now Showmax is better than Netflix to me. I relate more to the content it provides.” said Kibet a viewer on his take on recent price moves.

Spoilt for choice

Netflix is currently a market leader in terms of streaming engagement, and, per Nielsen, it was the top original streaming series in the US for 24 of the first 25 weeks of 2023, and the top movie for 21 weeks.

But while streaming business is growing rapidly in US and global markets edging out broadcast, cable and satellite TV as the new frontier of entertainment, the competition is heating up.

The business is dominated by Youtube and Netflix with Hulu, Disney and Prime video commanding a big chunk of the market.

Netflix’s early success in Kenya didn’t go unnoticed; instead it served as a clarion call for other streaming giants to enter the scene. Amazon Prime Video made its presence felt, offering a library of international content, and joining the race for Kenyan viewers.

Showmax, which was already established in the country, rose to the occasion, intensifying its efforts to compete with Netflix. The platform diversified its content offerings, implemented mobile-only subscription plans, and began producing more Kenyan content, creating a competitive edge in the Kenyan market.

Other platforms like DStv Now, Iflix, and Viu also entered the Kenyan scene, expanding the choices available to viewers.

DStv Now allowed subscribers to stream live TV and access on-demand content, creating a bridge between traditional television and streaming.

Netflix, known for its affordability, and Viu, which offers Asian content, provided specialized content options, further fueling competition.

Netflix’s vast international content library introduced Kenyan viewers to a world of entertainment. This set high standards for other streaming services, encouraging them to diversify their content offerings to cater to the diverse tastes of Kenyan viewers

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, every month.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.