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ShowMax ups the ante for video on demand in South Africa

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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.

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Kia makes car audio personal

KIA Motors has revealed its Separated Sound Zone (SSZ) technology that allows each passenger of a vehicle to experience an audio stream tailored to their individual needs.

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SSZ technology creates and controls the acoustic fields of the car, allowing the driver and each passenger to hear isolated sounds. The many speakers installed in the vehicle feature technology that uses scientific principles to reduce or increase audio levels of sound waves. This negates the overlap of sounds being heard in each seat, creating the same effect as current noise cancellation systems, but without the need for headphones.

“Customers in the autonomous navigation era will demand increasingly customisable entertainment options within their vehicles, which includes technological innovations such as the Separated Sound System.” says Kang-duck Ih, Research Fellow at KIA’s NVH Research Lab. “I hope by providing drivers and passengers with tailored, independent audio spaces, they will experience a more comfortable and entertaining transportation environment.”

People’s musical tastes vary, so some passengers choose to use headphones during a journey to isolate their audio stream, but this also creates an unnecessary social barrier when interacting with other passengers. When travelling in a vehicle equipped with next-generation SSZ technology, each passenger can connect their smartphone via Bluetooth and listen to their own music without interference from, or interfering with other passenger’s audio streams.

When the SSZ is utilised, hands-free phone calls can also be isolated to individual passengers, ensuring privacy when having important phone conversations on the move.

Furthermore, this ground-breaking technology can eliminate unnecessary sounds for the passenger, but provide them for the driver. Navigation sounds, or various alerts, allow the driver to focus on controlling the vehicle, while the SSZ system isolates these sounds, maintaining a quiet area for the other passengers. This has a particularly strong application for drivers with a sleeping child in the vehicle.

SSZ technology has been in development since 2014, and the completed mass production system is expected to be ready for installation in vehicles within one to two years.

For a video of Separated Sound Zone technology, please visit https://youtu.be/lokXL8qyu1c.

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Future of TV in 4 letters

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Television technology has come a long way, transforming not just the way we consume our entertainment, but also the formats in which media is broadcasted or streamed. Today, TVs can do a lot more than just display our favourite shows, says DEAN DAFFUE, GTM manager at LG Electronics SA.

Today, consumers demand TVs that are not just slim, but so thin that they are like paintings on walls. TVs have become an element of décor that can seamlessly integrate into the design of a home, and render the clearest, sharpest images, with the deepest blacks and crispest whites without compromising on resolution. Home cinema is not just about the picture anymore. Consumers are eyeing TVs that would be able to learn usage patterns and automatically suggest entertainment based on individual preferences. The switch from LCD to LED transformed TV design, allowing for lighter, thinner and easily wall-mountable frames, housing even more sophisticated display tech. The picture quality also dramatically improved with new contrast ratios rendering more vivid colours, deeper blacks and crisper whites. But they were still more functional than aesthetic.

As larger segments of the population embraced internet connectivity and streaming content, the TV became smarter, integrating content-streaming apps for a more seamless viewing experience. As Internet Service Providers (ISPs) upgraded their infrastructures to accommodate the growth in streaming services, TV manufacturers also upgraded their TVs’ ability to tap into different types of content.

In the future, TVs with built in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be able to learn usage patterns and automatically switch modes based on user preference, and even take instructions from multiple users as TVs become increasingly connected to digital home assistant systems.

Six years on, and we see the evolution that continues to lead in the OLED TV market, LG is racking up awards and accolades for its innovative OLED TVs. This pioneering effort in the design and manufacturing of OLED TVs has culminated in complete dominance of the OLED market, leaving the pinnacle challenge of innovation in display technology, redefining the TV viewing experience, and its place in your home. Great efforts have been made on OLED technology being affordable and accessible, allowing more people to enjoy a better-quality television experience than before. No TV is a greater testament to this than last year’s award-winning LG SIGNATURE W7 – also known as wallpaper.

As South Africans are continuously looking for ‘an experience that amazes’, OLED TVs are considered by industry experts to offer the most advanced display technology. As each pixel on the display can be individually switched on and off, OLED offers enhanced picture quality without image degradation. This results in the highest quality image rendering with the purest blacks. With its myriad advantages, OLED panels have become the most desired display technology today and it has become a leading force in making this technology even more ubiquitous and accessible.

With support for both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, LG OLED TV is the first of its kind to offer a premium cinema experience in the comfort of your home. It also features Active HDR technology, which optimises HDR picture quality scene-by-scene, rendering brighter scenes and greater shadow detail for a life-like viewing experience.

Despite the market dominance, the development of newer, more innovative technologies does not stop. This year a staggering number of innovative display technologies were unveiled, such as future display technology like roll-able OLED screens and large format curved displays that will become the future of wall art.

AI is also set to make an appearance. There is a unique and personalised AI services built on the deep learning-based DeepThinQ technology, in cooperation with other AI service providers such as Google, giving AI TVs the ability to automatically adjust the settings to Game Mode, or Sports Mode based on whether a user is currently playing Xbox or watching a football match. Ultimately, AI TV will provide care and comfort to users’ mind and body by learning more about its users’ viewing habits.

What does this all mean for consumers? With continued innovation and development of display technologies, as well as advanced design, AI, premium audio integration and support for the latest resolutions, colour and High Dynamic Range (HDR) standards, the TV will no longer be a display, but a complete home viewing experience. This is what new ranges of OLED TVs will bring to fruition in the coming months, making it the ideal time to upgrade your TV to the ultimate home entertainment experience.

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