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Video-on-Demand heats up in SA

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The arrival of a new Video-on-Demand service in South Africa last week added a new flavour to an intriguing marketplace, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

When MTN announced last week it would shut down its video-on-demand (VOD) service, VU, just more than a year after Times Media lowered the curtain on a VOD service called Vidi, many assumed it was now a two-horse race between Naspers-owned ShowMax and the global giant Netflix.

But the news was barely cold when a new player unveiled its offering. An online service called Digital Entertainment on Demand (DEOD) has been launched by a VOD solutions provider, Discover Digital. They happen to be the same company that provided the platform for MTN’s VU, and would have learned a few lesson’s from MTN’s failure to set the market alight.

The key lessons are fairly obvious, though:

  • It requires massive marketing budgets or clever niche programming – or both – to go up against the vast offering of Netflix, even given the fact that it has a more limited catalogue than the original US service;
  • Without live sports, the bulk of the pay TV market remains firmly in the hands of Multichoice and its DStv bouquet – with Supersport still one of the best live sport services in the world;
  • The number of people with the kind of high-speed connectivity needed to watch high-definition video via the Internet is still tiny, relative to the scale needed to make such a service profitable.

Nevertheless, when the first inklings of Netflix’s arrival in South Africa surfaced, it became clear that DStv subscribers who were only watching movies and video series would be easy pickings for the US-based provider, which has single-handedly destroyed the video rental industry in the USA. As a result, Naspers decided to set up its own competitor, preferring to see customers jump ship to a sister company rather than to the competition.

ShowMax has worked hard to differentiate itself, with the largest South African movie and series catalogue available from any provider. However, this does not appear to have been an effective enough counter to Netflix’s secret weapon: the ability to bring its own high-quality productions to a global audience simultaneously.

But there is one market where it has made a massive impact through a keen understanding of local dynamics. In Kenya, it has achieved instant success, partly through adopting the same local content strategy in South Africa. But the most important factor in its success is its understanding of the local dynamics of the economy.

It has allowed viewers to subscribe via M-PESA, the Kenyan-born mobile money service that has transformed payments in East Africa. Users can also purchase a single movie at a time, making it the most affordable as well as accessible VOD service in Africa.

Into this stormy mix, in the past week, DEOD made its entry.

It offers a standard selection of rental and subscription movie and video series content, but has added two elements that give it more of a YouTube than a Netflix feel.

The first is a news service that includes most major news channels from around the world. Since viewers tend to stick to one or two news sources, this one is unlikely to have the competition sit up and take notice. The second new element however, is a potential winner.

A Sports Pack gives access to a range of popular niche sports that have been largely ignored by mainstream TV, with the aim of giving sports participants, sporting bodies and sponsors exposure. It includes no less than five niche channels:

* Channel Edge HD – an extreme sports bouquet;

* Fightbox HD – covering all forms of fighting and martial arts;

* Motorvision TV – an automotive and motorsport channel;

* Nautical channel – for sailing and boating enthusiasts;

* Sportskool – a tuition based channel with instructional sports content.

“The new DEOD sports offering is just the first of a broader range of Discover Digital on-demand services set to propel South African niche sports into the limelight,” says Discover Digital managing director Stephen Watson.

“There are probably 40 or more sports in South Africa that have thousands of participants, national championships and even international competitions, which do not enjoy airtime on traditional TV in South Africa.

“Via the DEOD sports desk, they now have an opportunity to secure coverage of their events among local fans. We also have the capacity to help sporting bodies stream, package and archive their events on any number of digital platforms for a broader international audience, which allows their sponsors to gain more exposure, better monetise their events, and showcase their participants.”

These include sports like women’s hockey, SuperGP, mountain biking, surfing, gymnastics, tennis, netball, water sports and boxing, along with school leagues and tournaments with large followings.

Discover Digital plans to send its own experienced production team to help schools and sports bodies learn how to record, stream, archive and monetise their own content.

It is an open secret that no one can compete with DStv for the rights to major sports leagues and events. But in that very strategy lurks the massive gap that DEOD has spotted: the content Multichoice doesn’t want, but that tens of thousands of viewers do.

 

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

The cost of catching DEOD

DEOD app: free to download for Android (from Play Store) and IOS (App Store).

Rent a single movie: R18

On Demand – All movies, series, music: R79 a month

All News channels: R49 a month

All sports channels: R99 a month

News + On demand: R99 a month

Sports + On Demand: R159

Five devices are allowed to access each subscription. All titles are initially available in Standard Definition. Later, DEOD will introduce Chromecast and Airplay support, along with Smart TV apps for all TV brands, and High-Definition will then be enabled.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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