Amazon Prime Video is discontinuing support for local originals in Africa and Middle East

Amazon Prime Video is said to be downsizing its Africa and Middle East operations in a move that will affect teams in the two regions; according to a report in Deadline, the company will instead focus on European originals.

Following the changes, Prime Video will stop contracting originals in Africa and Middle East markets. However, shows given the go-ahead will continue as planned.

Additionally, the company plans to split the European team into two groups: the EU Established to focus on the U.K., Germany, Italy, France, and Spain markets and the EU Emerging to oversee operations in Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), the Nordics, and Central and Eastern Europe, the report said.

“We’ve been carefully looking at our business to ensure we continue to prioritize our resources on what matters most to customers. 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,” said Prime Video Europe VP Barry Furlong, according to an email to staff quoted by Variety.

“I have listened and considered the feedback received across the teams over the past 12 months; I believe these changes will improve the operational running of our multi-territory business and allow us to be more agile and focused,” Furlong said.

In a sharp turn of events, the shakeup comes months after Prime Video claimed to have laid out a strategy to become the biggest video streaming player in Africa after it signed multi-year licensing agreements with production companies and set up teams in Nigeria and South Africa.

It’s interesting to note that Amazon Prime Video entered the African market in 2016 as part of its global expansion to over 200 countries, presenting substantial competition to Netflix’s simultaneous global launch. Until about 18 months ago, the service in the region lacked local-language interfaces, subtitling, and original content offerings commonly found in more developed markets. Launching the localized version in Nigeria marked a significant step in catering to the preferences and expectations of the African audience.

As Africa’s third-largest video streaming platform, Amazon Prime Video aimed to strengthen its subscriber base in emerging markets by launching localized plans. While similar plans were introduced in South Africa, the platform had not commissioned any original content in the Middle East. The 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 garnered attention and success, with movies such as “Breath of Life” and Jade Osiberu’s “Gangs of Lagos” achieving critical acclaim and commercial success, respectively. At its peak, Prime Video had over 600,000 subscribers in Africa, according to Digital TV Research, with plans to add 1.5 million new subscribers over the next four years.

Prime Video’s withdrawal from producing local content leaves a significant void in the streaming landscape, where competing platforms are vying for Africa’s projected 15 million video-on-demand subscribers by 2026. As such, the new development could reshape the dynamics of the region’s streaming industry as platforms dedicated to creating local content, mainly Showmax, Netflix, and Canal+, capitalize on Prime Video’s reduced presence and potentially gain market share in the ongoing streaming war for African content and viewership.

Updated to correct that the news was first reported by Deadline.