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ShowMax ups the ante for video on demand in South Africa

This week, Naspers launched its video on demand service, ShowMax, which it says represents a step-change in the range of video entertainment content available to consumers in South Africa.

Media group Naspers this week launched a new video on demand service called ShowMax, which it says is a giant leap forward in the range of content available to local consumers. The service ups the ante for similar services in South Africa, coming in at the lowest local price yet.

It also appears to be a bold gambit to pre-empt the arrival of foreign services like Netflix, a global player that is due to enter South Africa by the end of 2016. Naspers also owns satellite pay-TV service DStv, which was expected to lose many subscribers to Netflix. By launching its own competing service, it is likely to win back the business of many potentially departing DStv subscribers.

A key factor in the move is probably the knowledge that DStv has a captive audience of sports fans, thanks to its dominance of live sports broadcasting in South Africa. None of the video on demand services will be able to provide significant live sports.

At launch, ShowMax has content that is says adds up to more than a year’s continuous viewing of series, movies, documentaries, a wide selection of children’s shows, and an array of classics. Complete sets of heavyweight series such as Entourage, Game of Thrones, and The Wire form the foundation of the service. ShowMax will also bring new shows like “The Late Late Show with James Corden” to the South African audience.

The content catalogue, which totals more than 10,000 hours, spans major production studios from across the globe as well as local African content. This brings ShowMax customers two  benefits: a library many multiples larger than those currently available via local services, and also African content not available via services originating outside the continent.

ShowMax is available via a wide range of smart devices with an Internet connection. This includes mobile phones and tablets via iOS and Android apps, laptop and desktop computers using a range of web browsers, and Samsung and LG smart TVs.

“We’re unashamedly ambitious in what we’re aiming to achieve with ShowMax,” said John Kotsaftis, General Manager of ShowMax South Africa. “The ongoing change in viewing habits has given us the opportunity to build a video on demand powerhouse to feed the marathon viewing trend. We’ve got all the best content from Hollywood and beyond, but at the same time we also have the local content that consumers here expect. Importantly, we’re bringing this in at an attractive price, and doing this across more devices than ever before.”

ShowMax is offering a seven-day trial period, with free access to the entire library in order to test the service. The ongoing cost of subscription is R99 per month, which allows access via five different devices. Two different video streams may be watched simultaneously on separate devices using the single monthly subscription.

This compares to equivalent services from Times Media Limited’s VIDI, at R149 a month for an unlimited service, and MTN’s FrontRow, which dramatically slashed its subscription fee from R179 to R119 a month ahead of the launch of ShowMax. Pricing appears to give the latter an edge over both local and international rivals – the equivalent service from global player Netflix currently costs from R120 ($9 per month) for those who are able to unblock its regional bars. The price excludes the cost of unblocking services.

“We’re aiming to change the game,” says Kotsaftis. “ShowMax won’t just be the best subscription video on demand service available in South Africa – we’re competing with the best in the world.”

For more information, visit www.showmax.com.

Audio/Visual

Planet Radio TV tune in on any device

Planet Radio TV plans to be Africa’s first online broadcaster that allows its listeners to watch via Internet and satellite TV as well as listen via FM or Internet radio. SEAN BACHER visits its studios.

Planet Radio TV (PRTV) is broadcast much like any other terrestrial radio station, allowing its users to tune into it with a standard FM tuner. But its owner, Planet Image Productions, is about to launch two other means of tuning into the station.

In the coming month, MultiChoice will place a new satellite in orbit that will, by the new year, allow Planet to broadcast to subscribers via the satellite. Planet has also announced the PRTV app, which can be downloaded to Apple, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Mobile devices, allowing users to stream the content to their phones and tablets.

‚”What makes this unique though is that our systems will automatically detect a user’s connection speed and stream content in a format that suits that speed, says Planet Image CEO Wale Akinlabi. ‚”For example, someone connecting through 3G will be able to view high-definition video and hear high-definition audio. A user with a slower connection will still be able to view and listen to the station, but at a lower quality.‚”

This, he believes, will eliminate the buffering issue which discourages many users from streaming video and audio to their devices.

The radio station comprises 80% African music, with the remainder being international, and is targeted at Africa’s youth.

‚”At PRTV we intend to change the way consumers view, listen and interact with television, radio and Internet mediums,‚” says Mabel Mabaso, chief operations officer and director at Planet Image. ‚”It is an exciting platform that synchronises three mediums, providing opportunities for consumers and advertisers alike.‚”

Planet RadioTV differentiates itself from other local broadcasters with its clever use of software and hardware. Planet Image uses a high-definition video-graphics (HDVG) rendering program, designed by Orad, an Israeli company specialising in TV production software. This software suite, combined with four Panasonic high-definition cameras, is able to detect and focus on a person’s voice. When the camera fixes on a voice, that camera is automatically activated and begins broadcasting. Should someone else begin talking, a separate camera will detect the voice and focus on that person.

The software controlling the cameras also performs basic video editing. Mabaso says that, although the initial cost of the equipment was more than that of standard cameras, it will prove well worth it, as it eliminates the need for a dedicated cameraman filming the show in the studio.

‚”Another payoff is that we don’t need that much office space,‚” she says.

Based in Randburg in Johannesburg, the studio is small in comparison to most others and the control room is just big enough for one person.

‚”The control room merely serves as a back-up should one of the cameras fail. It also allows us to control when and where visual adverts appear.‚”

The system is also tightly integrated with applications like Skype.

‚”We can interview someone overseas without having to send a crew there to perform recording. We simply communicate via Skype, making the interviewee’s Internet camera an extension of our own in-studio cameras.‚”

Besides featuring local and international music, the station has regular fashion, food and cooking, music and culture segments, which are broadcast to around 30 000 listeners around Africa.

Rounding up the technology aspect, PRTV has integrated Twitter and Facebook, allowing its listeners to interact with DJs.

Listeners can tune into Planet Radio TV by logging onto www.planetradio.co.za

* Follow Sean Bacher on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Canon EOS M – small and simple

Canon has extended the EOS range with the EOS M, its first compact system camera. Although not yet available in South Africa, the EOS M offers DSLR quality images and full HD recording in a compact, easy to use device.

Canon has expanded the EOS range with the launch of the EOS M. The company’s first ever compact system camera (CSC), the EOS M offers DSLR-quality imaging and full HD movie creation in a compact and easy-to-use model.

The EOS M is available in sleek black, glossy white, stylish silver or bold red colours, and condenses Canon’s EOS imaging heritage into a stylish, compact design. The model launches alongside two new lenses, the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM pancake and the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom, as well as a new compact EX Speedlite the Speedlite 90EX. For those who want to push their images even further, the EOS M can also use Canon’s range of EF lenses with the new Mount Adapter EF-EOS M, for even more creative freedom.

The quality of a Canon DSLR

The EOS M’s high-resolution, 18 megapixel APS-C hybrid CMOS sensor also allows you to blur the background for beautiful portraits, or for close-ups with impact.

With the inclusion of Canon’s DIGIC 5 processor, colours ‚’pop’ and skin tones are beautifully natural, while a super-fast shutter allows you to capture split-second action.

Shoot what you see and easily express your creative vision

Every aspect of the EOS M has been designed to make it simple to capture high-quality images. With the high-resolution, 7.7cm (3.0‚”), Clear View LCD II Touch screen, the EOS M gives you as much or as little control over your photos as desired. Simply select different shooting modes and settings via the on-screen icons, or let Scene Intelligent Auto adjust the camera settings according to the subject and shooting conditions, leaving you free to focus on composition and selecting the perfect moment to hit the shutter release button.

Turn film-maker with EOS Movie and Video Snapshot

When a moment calls for more than a still image, the EOS M lets you switch to Full HD video with stereo sound.

Extending the EOS System with dedicated accessories

In addition to compatibility with Canon’s existing EF lenses, accessories and Speedlites, the EOS M launches with its own range of accessories. Two new EF-M lenses offer portability and high performance when using the new model the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom and the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM pancake lens. Both feature new stepper motor technology for exceptionally smooth AF performance, as well as precision Canon optics, while their compact designs offer the perfect form-factor to complement the camera’s pocket-sized body.

Additionally, the EOS M will ship with the new Speedlite 90EX flash unit as standard. Lightweight and highly-compact, it offers a maximum guide number of nine and supports wide-angle lenses, making it an ideal general-purpose flash for everyday use. A wireless master function also allows the control of multiple flash guns wirelessly, allowing more advanced users to experiment with a range of creative lighting effects.

EOS M key features

· The quality of a digital SLR in a compact body

· Scene Intelligent Auto

· Be versatile with interchangeable lenses

· Create out-of-focus backgrounds for high impact

· Easy-to-use touch-screen

· Atmospheric photos in low light

· Full-HD video with Video Snapshot Mode

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