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Cell C goes black with Video on Demand

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Cell C has launched its black entertainment platform offering kids’ entertainment, video-on-demand and live TV.

Cell C has launched an entertainment platform called black, that it says is “flexible, affordable and brings everything together in one place.

Launching on 14 November, it offers sports, kids’ entertainment, video-on-demand and live TV, with both local and international content. It will include live streaming of five top European football club channels, and services like sports betting and hotel bookings.

“black is an interactive ecosystem that will give customers an array of choice in a single environment; they won’t need to go anywhere else for content,” says Cell C. It is being brought to consumers as a new division within Cell C, focused on delivering entertainment and content. However, it is network agnostic, meaning it will be available to any consumer with an Internet connection from as little as R5 a day.

“Cell C is a business that constantly pushes the bar by bringing to customers the services they want at an incredibly affordable price,” says Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos. “Content services around the world are growing as fast as mobile did in its early days and true to Cell C’s form we are embracing content by bringing black to South Africans.”

Around the world, on-demand content is growing at incredible rates, with international research from Nielson showing that almost two-thirds of the global population watching some form of on-demand content.

“In comparison, the same content is only being served to one-fifth of African viewers,” says Dos Santos. “We know that the pricing and flexibility of black will change that. “

At launch, customers will be able to access a video-on-demand offering that will include up to 5 000 movies, series, music and documentaries, which will include both international and local content.

They will be able to access 60 live TV channels, which include music, news, travel and lifestyle, movies and children’s content. black has also secured the rights to five European football TV channels, namely MANU TV, BARCA TV, LIVERPOOL TV, CHELSEA TV and REAL MADRID TV. Football fans can access behind the scenes footage, interviews with players, games and much more content specific to each football club.

Customers will be able to purchase or rent the latest movies “before any other service in South Africa at an incredible price point”, says Cell C. These movies will also be available for download for offline viewing.

Subscribers will get to binge-watch new seasons of TV shows like Mary Kills People, Catastrophe, Power, High Rollers, Generations, Skeem Saam, Uzalo, and Survivor’s Remorse – as well as catch up on previous seasons.

Says Dos Santos: “We are also in discussions with local production companies to bring South African fans top local content and provide a platform for local talent to showcase their work. We have already started work in that arena with the launch of two Cell C originals in last year’s award-winning Break the Net on our Reality App and this year’s Hangman, which is currently flighting on eTV.”

black will offer many features, including parental control, so kids can watch in a secure and controlled environment, scheduled downloads to save on data costs, recommendations based on total family viewing, up to 48 hours look-back on BTV channels so that customers can catch-up on what they have missed, rent or buy a movie without subscribing to a contract, giving easy access, flexible packages, and access to up to 5 devices, two of which can be watched simultaneously.

The platform that brings black to consumers is being deployed as an ecosystem where customers will have not only access to incredible content, but a host of additional services.  It will offer gaming, travel and hotel booking services, sports betting through Cell C’s partnership with ClickaBet, and other services.

Customers will be able to choose which live TV channels they want to watch and when; they will have a choice of daily, weekly, weekend or monthly subscriptions.

“This really opens the market to more South Africans looking for content, providing affordable and relevant content to those that have not had access to it before,” says Dos Santos.

Services can be purchased using vouchers as well as debit and credit cards.  And as a first in South Africa, Cell C subscribers will be able to pay for any of these services using Prepaid airtime.

At launch, consumers can watch and engage with black by downloading the black Android & iOS apps, using a tablet or phone. It will also available on a web interface at www.black.co.za.

What does it cost?

BUYblack will allow customers to purchase the latest blockbuster movies, fresh from the big screen, earlier than ever before and from as little as R59. These are then owned by the customer to watch as many times as they like.

RENTblack will enable customer to rent the greatest movies and similar to BUYblack the latest releases from R29. Customers will have access to the movie for 48 hours from rental.

FLEXIblack will have hundreds of hours of local and international movies, series, music, documentaries and so much more. FLEXI Access will cost from R10 per day up to R39 per month. FLEXI Premium, which will offer a wider selection, can be purchased at R39 per day up to R99 per month at launch.

BTV, with more than 60 included channels, will offer BTV Premium for R189 per month and BTV Access, which includes 18 channels, at R69 per month.

As a separate subscription option, customers will be able to access five exclusive European football TV channels available individually from R5 a day to R25 per month.

PLAYblack will offer unlimited games from R5 per day.

* Visit www.black.co.za to see all the options available. 

Arts and Entertainment

Netflix to make SA series

The world leader in streaming movies has announced the first South African production to join its Originals roster.

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World leader in entertainment streaming services Netflix this week announced its first Original series in Africa, with South African series Queen Sono.

The news comes immediately in the wake of local rival Showmax announcing it’s first original drama production. In this context, it heralds a new phase in the evolution of streaming video-on-demand in South Africa.

The action-packed series follows Queen Sono, the highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life. The series will be created by Director, Kagiso Lediga and Executive producer Tamsin Andersson.

South African actress, Pearl Thusi, will star as Queen Sono, with the character having been created with her in mind. Thusi is also known for her performance in the romantic dramedy, Catching Feelings, available on Netflix.

Pearl Thusi stars as Queen Sono in Netflix’s first original series in Africa.

“We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike.” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Original Series at Netflix.

“We are delighted to create this original series with Netflix, and are super excited by their undeniable ability to take this homegrown South African story to a global audience. We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world” added the director and executive producer of the series, Kagiso Lediga.

The series is due to start production in 2019.

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Arts and Entertainment

Showmax shoots its first local drama

Showmax has completed filming its first commissioned drama, as it builds out its roster of original content.

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The Girl From St Agnes, Showmax’s first original drama, wrapped on 28 November 2018 after filming in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and Johannesburg. The eight-part whodunnit premieres on Showmax on 31 January 2019. It is the second series in a programme designed to build out its roster of exclusive, original content.

As Netflix takes hold as South Africa’s preferred streaming video-on-demand service,  Showmax owner MultiChoice has made a string of strategic announcements designed to take the DStv paid satellite broadcasting service into the streaming era. Original content is critical to this strategy, as Netflix is on track to become the world’s biggest movie studio.

Showmax is available in 70 countries.

Photographer: Patrick Toselli

“Our first Original – last year’s light-hearted comedy Tali’s Wedding Diary – had the most successful launch day of any series on Showmax ever,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax. “This is a complete change of direction: The Girl From St Agnes is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing and taps into the current conversations in South Africa about #metoo and teen sexuality.”

At St Agnes, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in the Midlands, a popular and beautiful student is found dead at the base of the old mill. Fearful of the scandal it might cause, the school is quick to declare the death of Lexi Summerveld a tragic accident.

But drama teacher Kate Ballard doesn’t believe it. On the night of her death, an upset Lexi had been trying to contact her, and Kate had ignored her. Now wracked with guilt, Kate attempts to piece together the terrible truth.

The more she investigates, the more Kate realises that she didn’t know Lexi or the school at all. Behind the imposing walls of St Agnes, Lexi’s killer won’t be the only person exposed…

Newcomer Jane De Wet was handpicked to play Lexi by legendary South African casting director Moonyeenn Lee (Tsotsi), who’s been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the last three years, for The Looming Tower and Roots.

Kate is played by Nina Milner, who modelled for Vogue Germany and at Paris Fashion Week last year and most recently starred in Troy: Fall Of A City as Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.

Jane and Nina are joined by an impressive supporting cast that includes internationally recognised South African talent like Robert Hobbs (District9), Tyrone Keogh (24 Hours To Live), Tessa Jubber (Wallander), Karl Thaning (Dredd) and Shamilla Miller (Troy: Fall Of A City) opposite local favourites like Celeste Khumalo (The Queen), Richard Lukunku (Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word), Zakeeya Patel (High Rollers), Graham Hopkins (The Lab) and three-time South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) winner Jerry Mofokeng (Heist, Tsotsi), not to mention hot new talent like Paige Bonnin and Tristan de Beer.

The Girl From St Agnes is being produced by Quizzical Pictures, winners of the SAFTA for Best Drama for six of the last eight years, as well as a Peabody. Producer Harriet Gavshon, Quizzical Pictures’ managing director, is drawing on her own private school experiences, which sparked the original idea for the show. This is the first time Harriet has produced a series, rather than just executive producing, since 2009’s Hopeville, which won Best Drama and Miniseries at Rose d’Or, was nominated for an International Emmy, and was a finalist at Monte Carlo.

Catharine Cooke, who won this year’s Best Director In a TV Drama SAFTA for iNumber Number, co-directed the shoot with Cindy Lee, a commercials director helming her first drama series, having previously worked as the social media director on the Emmy-winning Black Mirror. Double SAFTA winner Gillian Breslin (Umlilo; 4Play: Sex Tips For Girls) is head writer. This makes Girl From St Agnes a rare TV series commissioned, produced, written and directed by women.

“What links Girl From St Agnes, Tali’s Wedding Diary and the other Showmax Originals in the pipeline is our aim to work with the best South African talent and be the home for brave, quirky and at times edgy local stories you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” says Candice. “Creating new characters that audiences come to love and follow is an incredibly rewarding experience and we want to establish a platform for more ‘Tali’s’ across varied genres.”

All eight episodes can be binged on Showmax from 31 January 2019.

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