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Inside Netflix: Quest for content will sweep Africa

In the second of a series of behind-the-scenes reports from Netflix studios, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers an appetite for new stories.

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Netflix had been founded in 1997 to address CEO Reed Hastings’ frustration with fees for late returns of rented movies on VHS tape. A $40 fine that global video rental leader Blockbuster charged Hastings for the late return of the Apollo 13 video is regarded as one of the most expensive customer-service mistakes in business history. Within ten years, Netflix was driving Blockbuster into bankruptcy – even before the newcomer moved into streaming. It had quickly switched its business model from the traditional movie rental approach to one based on an unlimited subscription, and that proved to be ideal for the fledgling streaming team.

“You could fit all of us into one small conference room. But we had this dream of bringing it in a way that was easier, more accessible, faster for our members to connect with by using streaming,” recalled Peters.

“That was a lofty dream, but back then we sort of had humble beginnings. We were only available on the PC. That was the only place you could stream content. The kind of content we had, which was frankly quite limited at that point of time, was just licensed content, and we were only available in the United States.”

But, gradually, more content was added. More devices were added. Within two years, the streaming business was ready to expand internationally.

“We launched first in Canada and then in Latin America and then moved to Europe in 2012 in the UK and Ireland and expanded from there until about three years ago. We actually launched in one day 130 countries, making us available in 190 countries around the world. While we were expanding internationally, we were also growing our capabilities as a content producer from six years ago when we launched, first, House of Cards, to today where we are producing content, shows and movies, around the world in over 30 countries.”

Peters headed up international development at Netflix before taking his current role. In that capacity, he oversaw its global roll-out, including the day of the streaming big bang, 16 January 2016, when it went fully global, and also arrived in South Africa. That global sensibility today helps drives his product focus.

“We have more than 139 million members around the world. The majority of those members are from outside the United States, and that ratio is going to get bigger and bigger in the years to come. And you see that shift also in the kind of original programming that we are doing. You’ll see more of these shows from around the world.”

Click here to read about what Netflix means to pay-TV providers.

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Notre Dame, Scoop Makhathini, GoT, top week in search

From fire disaster to social media disaster, the top Google searches this week covered a wide gamut of themes.

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Paris and the whole world looked on in shock as the 856-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral crumbled into ash. The tragic infernal destruction of this tourist attraction of historical and religious significance led South Africans to generate more than 200 000 search queries for “Notre Dame Cathedral” on Monday. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that razed the architectural icon.

In other top trending searches on Google this week, radio presenter Siyabonga Ngwekazi, AKA Scoop Makhathini, went viral when it appeared he had taken to Twitter to expose his girlfriend, Akhona Carpede, for cheating on him. Scoop has since come out to say that he was not responsible for the bitter rant and that his account was hacked. “Scoop Makhathini” generated more than 20 000 search queries on Wednesday.

Fans generated more than 20 000 search queries for “Sam Smith” on Tuesday ahead of the the British superstar’s Cape Town performance at the Grand West Casino. Smith ended up cutting his performance short that night due to vocal strain.

Local Game of Thrones superfans were beside themselves on Sunday, searching the internet high and low for the first episode of the American fantasy drama’s eighth season. “Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 1” generated more than 100 000 queries on Google Search on the weekend.

As the festivities kicked off in California with headliners such as Childish Gambino and Ariana Grande, South Africans generated more than 2 000 search queries for “Coachella” on Saturday.

South Africans generated more than 5 000 search queries for “Wendy Williams” on Friday  as it emerged that the American talk show host had filed for divorce from her husband Kevin Hunter after 21 years of marriage. Hunter has long been rumored to have been cheating on Williams, which reportedly finally led to the divorce.

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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5G smartphones to hit 5M sales in 2019

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According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Early 5G smartphone models will be expensive and available in limited volumes. Samsung, LG and Huawei will be the early 5G smartphone leaders this year, followed by Apple next year.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “We forecast global 5G smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Less than 1 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide will be 5G-enabled this year. Global 5G smartphone shipments are tiny for now, due to expensive device pricing, component bottlenecks, and restricted availability of active 5G networks.”

Ville Petteri-Ukonaho, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, added, “Samsung will be the early 5G smartphone leader in the first half of 2019, due to initial launches across South Korea and the United States. We predict LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola and others will follow later in the year, followed by Apple iPhone with its first 5G model during the second half of 2020. The iPhone looks set to be at least a year behind Samsung in the 5G smartphone race and Apple must be careful not to fall too far behind.”

Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The short-term outlook for 5G smartphones is weak, but the long-term opportunity remains huge. We forecast 1 billion 5G smartphones to ship worldwide per year by 2025. The introduction of 5G networks, by carriers like Verizon or China Mobile, opens up high-speed, ultra-low-latency services such as 8K video, streaming games, and augmented reality for business. The next big question for the mobile industry is how much extra consumers are really willing to pay, if anything, for those emerging 5G smartphones and services.”

Strategy Analytics provides a snapshot analyses for the outlook for 5G smartphone market in this Insight report: 5G Smartphones : From Zero to a Billion

Strategy Analytics provides a deep-dive into the air-interface technologies that will power phones through 2024 across 88 countries here: Global Handset Sales Forecast by 88 Countries and 19 Technologies : 2003 to 2024

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