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Discover Digital takes on African VoD market

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Discover Digital, is building in-market caching, storage and video on demand (VOD) server technology in its new markets across Africa, paving the way for a better streamed video experience for viewers across the continent.

“Discover Digital’s in-market content distribution networks (CDNs) and local caching support higher quality streaming without latency, at a competitive price,” says Discover Digital Managing Director, Stephen Watson.

“Africa has been under-served in terms of local CDNs,” adds Discover Digital’s Executive Head of Technology, Leon van den Berg. “In mature markets, there are a number of CDN-as-a-service providers and high speed connectivity to ensure viewers enjoy the best possible VOD experience. But until recently, South Africa and the rest of the continent faced VOD network constraints. You had the SEACOM cable and touchpoints running around the edge of the continent, and very little going inland. And when the content is hosted abroad and not cached in-country, there is typically a degraded viewing experience. This is why you’re still likely to find more buffering on video hosted abroad than that coming from a local VOD service.”

Watson says Discover Digital is paving the way for a better experience for its own customers and those of other VOD services providers. He notes that with the new networks and CDNs in place, and the use of adaptive bitrate technology, consumers with a maximum line speed of 1Mbps will enjoy a good on-demand viewing experience with high quality visuals and no latency. “It’s a myth that you have to have fibre or even a minimum 2Mbps connection, particularly when you’re viewing on a monitor or mobile device,” says Watson.

Van den Berg concurs: “It’s our firm belief that in order to deliver the right experience to the consumer, you need to put a CDN in country so that your playout and stream is delivered closer to the consumer. An extension of that is, as you build capacity in your markets, to roll out multiple CDNs in one territory. Later, you can also deploy nano-CDNs to create ‘spiderwebs’ as growth takes place in the VOD market and the IPTV market, where you have greater concurrency. In every market where we are active, we first and foremost deploy a CDN in-market and add caching capability to store content, which basically means we build a cloud based storage environment. The added benefit of having an in country CDN for ISPs and consumers alike is that internet bandwidth is not used. This enables services providers to provide streaming bandwidth at a greatly reduced price or even zero-rating the charge.”

As a local pioneer in the broad on-demand services space locally, Discover Digital, in partnership with French CDN technology specialist Broadpeak, are implementing multi-tenanted CDN and cloud-based infrastructure, paving the way for other players to piggyback off this infrastructure. “We’re not building this highway for ourselves – we’re building it out of a current need for us and a future need for others,” says Watson. Discover Digital currently has two CDNs in South Africa, a CDN and cloud service going into Zimbabwe, a CDN in Zambia, and CDN now being deployed into Nigeria. As Discover Digital expands across the continent, it will launch an in-market CDN in each new region.

Watson says Discover Digital’s fast-growing VOD services business offers a number of ancillary opportunities including CDN-as-a-Service, cloud-based storage and caching, digital rights management, application development and billing and system integration. “Our strategy is to support other players, including competitor VOD players, with solutions in every country,” says Watson.

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Prepare for Digital TV migration

The deadline for the digital migration is fast approaching. JACQUES BENTLEY, Skyworth Southern Africa Sales Manager, lets us know what we can expect.

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By now you’ve probably heard about the impending digital migration for South African broadcasting. Initially, this shift from old-school, analogue technology to newer, more efficient digital technology was set to take place in 2015 but the deadline for a national migration has been pushed out several times. With our neighbours Namibia and Botswana blazing ahead with their own digital transformations, the pressure is on for our own government to push forward to a fully digital South Africa.

But what does this overdue switch really mean for you and me?

What is digital migration?

Basically, the process involves moving over from an analogue transmission to a Digital Terrestrial Television/Transmission (DTT). We currently use analogue technology, transmitting video and audio through analogue signals. The drawback of this traditional broadcasting format is that the colours, sound and brightness are heavily impacted by the quality of the signal, resulting in a less-than-ideal snowy effect, and your TV deciding to randomly fade or ghost.

Digital TV, on the other hand, boasts crystal-clear image quality and excellent sound without interference because of its land-based network of TV transmitters that broadcast digital signals. This kind of technology also allows viewers to access a wider range of channels with different programmes.

Why is it happening?

Apart from the fact that everyone wants clearer sound, more channels and an enhanced viewing experience, the conversion to digital TV also has a far-reaching goal that ultimately

aids developing nations like our own. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the objective of Broadcast Digital Transition (BDT) work is to help developing countries with their smooth journey from analogue to digital broadcasting, including terrestrial TV, mobile TV and sound broadcasting. In turn, this means that we can enjoy new broadcasting services as well as an allocation of the digital dividend.

When is it taking place?

June 2019 is D-Day for all countries to have completed their digital migration. Our Communications department is determined to meet this international deadline and has implemented a specific DTT war room to ensure that all the boxes are ticked, and they can deliver on time.

The first province to undergo the digital migration was the Free State back in August, where digital Set-Top Boxes (STBs) were launched in Senekal. Essentially, STBs decode digital signals for old, box-style TV sets and the government aims to distribute these devices to about 5-million poor households, so that all citizens can enjoy prime TV, despite their financial situation. In fact, Skyworth is one of the chosen suppliers of these set-top boxes and is proud to be a core part of an all-inclusive transition to digital.

What can you do about it?

While the government has agreed to subsidise cash-strapped consumers with STBs, the only guarantee is that the digital migration is upon us and it is our responsibility to digitally transform our homes in order to meet the requirements. This means that you’ll either need to invest in a digital-ready TV or purchase your own STB to work with your current TV’s analogue signal. Whichever route you decide to go, you can look forward to exceptional viewing entertainment in the comfort of your own home.

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5 things you should ask about buying a new TV

With so many technological advancements that cater to various needs, and endless options on the market, buying a new TV for your home can be pretty daunting. JACQUES BENTLEY, Southern African Sales Manager at Skyworth, offers a few tips when buying a new TV.

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Given the role a TV occupies in the home – providing entertainment, relaxation and a window to the world for the whole family – it’s not a purchasing decision to be made lightly. Not to mention the fact that you’re likely to spend a rather large sum of hard-earned dough in the process. Fear not – we’re here to help you decide. Here are five important things to think about before you swipe that plastic to ensure your new TV will bring nothing but joy into your home (ok, and maybe a couple of disagreements on what to watch).

  1. Size matters

If you’re a fan of action-packed movies or nail-biting sporting events, you already know how important the size of the screen is. Consider the space into which your new TV will fit, and take measurements of the wall area or cabinet it’s going to sit on to make sure that you’re being practical about its size. How many people will be watching the TV at the same time? Now opt for the largest screen size that will fit comfortably in your lounge (and your budget). Generally, anything between 55 and 65 inches is a great all-round pick according to price, performance and how close most families sit to the TV.

  1. Is it digital-ready?

South Africa’s digital migration is upon us and by June 2019, you’ll either need a digital-ready TV that can transmit digital signals or a Set-Top Box to decode digital signals for your old, box-style analogue TV set. The benefits of investing in a digital TV include crystal-clear image quality, excellent sound and a wider range of channels. Ask the sales assistant to show you their range of digital ready TVs when making your selection.

  1. Does it have a 4K screen resolution?

Resolution refers to the sharpness of the TV picture, usually in terms of horizontal lines of pixels. Ultra HD/ 4K sets have four times more pixels than current Full HD screens. That’s as many as 2 160 horizontal lines, or 3 840 x 2 160 pixels. The result? Super-sharp, detailed and lifelike images, even on large screen sizes. For this reason, a 4K resolution is becoming increasingly popular because it’s a much better choice if you want to future-proof your investment – Skyworth’s G6 model was created with this in mind; it’s basically an Android TV made for the future.

  1. What will you be using your TV for?

Apart from the obvious activity of chilling out to watch your favourite shows, what else do you want to be able to do with your TV? Will your kids be using it to play games? Will you be streaming shows on it? All of these preferences will impact the specific features that will attract you to buy a certain model over another one, so it’s wise to do your research, either online or in store, before you say ‘yes’ to the device. Also, look out for at least four HDMI ports at the back of the set as these tend to get used up very quickly, especially if you are using accessories like a sound bar.

  1. Does it include cutting-edge technology?

From Google Voice Assist, allowing you to speak to your TV, to rich connectivity via Bluetooth, selecting a TV that has advanced capabilities makes for a smarter TV and one you aren’t likely to need to replace in a few years’ time. With Android System 6.0, an easily updatable operating system, the G6 TV is your best bet when it comes to constantly upgrading your TV without forking out money every time.

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