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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.

Cars

Mercedes brings older models to the connected world

The Mercedes Me Adapter is designed to bring older Mercedes Benz models into the connected world, allowing one to keep a close eye on the car via a smartphone. SEAN BACHER installs a unit

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In this day and age, just about any device, from speakers to TVs to alarm systems, can be connected and controlled via a smartphone.

In keeping with this trend, Daimler Chrysler has launched a Mercedes Me Adapter – a system designed to connect your car to your phone.

The Mercedes Me Adapter comprises a hardware and software component. The hardware is an adapter that is no bigger than a match box and plugs into the OBD2 diagnostics socket under the car’s steering wheel column. 

The software component is the Mercedes Me app, which can be downloaded for Android and iOS devices. (See downloading instructions at the end of the review.)

Setting up

Before you can start using the Mercedes Me Adapter, you need to download the app and begin the registration process. This includes setting up an account, inputting the vehicle’s VIN number, the year it was manufactured and the model name – among many other details. This information is sent to Daimler Chrysler. It is advisable to get this done before heading off to Mercedes to have the adapter installed, as it takes quite some time getting all the details in.

The next step is locating your nearest Merc dealer to get the adapter installed. You have to produce the registration papers and a copy of your ID – something Mercedes neglects to mention on its website, or anywhere else, for that matter.

What it does

The Mercedes Me Adapter is designed to show the car’s vital statistics on your mobile device. On the home screen, information like parking time, odometer reading and fuel level is displayed.

Below that is information about your most recent journeys, such as the distance, time taken, departure address and destination address. Your driving style is also indicated in percentage – taking into account acceleration, braking and coasting.

A Start Cockpit button displayed on the home screen includes a range of widgets offering additional information, including where your car is parked – right down to the address – as well as battery voltage, total driving time, distance and driver score since the adapter was installed. A variety of other widgets can be added to the screen, allowing for complete customisation.

Many users have have pointed out that that there is no real point to the adapter. However it does offer benefits. Firstly, your trips can be organised into personal and business categories and then exported into a spreadsheet for tax purposes. Secondly, you can keep a very close eye on your fuel consumption, as it automatically measures how many litres you put in each time you visit the garage and the cost (the cost per litre must be entered manually so it can work out total refuelling costs). This is also quite beneficial in terms of working out how much fuel you go through, without keeping all the pesky slips when it comes to claiming at the end of the month.

Probably the most important benefit is that it monitors the engine, electrical, transmission and gearbox, sending notifications as soon as any faults are detected. A perfect example was encountered on a recent trip I made to Pretoria. Upon arriving, I received a notification that I needed to check my engine, with the Mercedes roadside assist number blinking and ready for me to dial.

The notification did not even show up on the actual fault detection system, except for the faint glow of the orange engine light, which I would never have noticed in the bright light. I immediately took it Mercedes and they diagnosed it as an intermittent thermostat error, which they said is fine for now but that I have to keep an eye on the engine temperature.

Conclusion

The convenience of easily being able to export mileage for tax purposes and refuelling stops as well as being able to locate your car at anytime should be more than enough to qualify it as a pretty useful companion for your car.

Add to this the fact that it is completely free from Mercedes, and that makes it an absolute no-brainer. Should you not like it, simply unplug the adapter and uninstall the app. The only thing lost is half an hour while the Mercedes technician sets it up, ensures it is working and gives you a crash course on how to operate the app.

The adapter will only work in Mercedes Benz models from 2002 onwards. No warranties are lost, as the adapter does not increase the car’s performance and is a genuine Mercedes part.

2017 models and above do not need the adapter as everything is installed when the car is manufactured. All one needs to do is install the app and pair it with the car.

Get the Mercedes me iOS app here

Get the Mercedes Me Android app here

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Durban FilmMart wants African documentary projects

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Submissions for documentary and feature film projects in development for the Durban FilmMart  (DFM) close next week on 31 January 2020. The organisers are making a special call-out to documentary filmmakers who have projects to submit.

“We invite documentary filmmakers to submit their projects no matter how early in its development it is, so long as it has a producer and director attached to it,” says Don Edkins well-known documentary filmmaker and the DFM’s documentary film mentor. “The DFM is a brilliant way in which filmmakers are able to galvanize interest in their ideas, get people excited about being involved or helping them develop the project. It may be that the project could then be taken to its next level by being invited to another market for further development, or find financing through the pitches. The possibilities are endless.”

The DFM, which takes place from 17 to 20 July 2020, will host 10 documentary and 10 feature projects at its co-production and finance forum. The producer, director or writer on the project must be an African citizen and can either be living on the continent or in the Diaspora.

‘Documentary filim has over the last years really come into its own,” enthuses Edkins. “We see how the genre has evolved from its more information-driven newsreel-style to a narrative or ‘story-driven’ approach,” he says. “It makes the film genre so much more accessible for its audience, drawing them in and engaging them, yet still making strong statements or creating its requisite impact.”

Countless film projects have gone from a simple concept and idea at the Durban FilmMart to the big screen over the 11 years.

Some examples include the 2011 project Buddha in Africa directed by Nicole Schafer (SA) which premiered at HotDocs 2019, and had its SA premiere at Encounters and won Best SA Documentary at DIFF making it eligible for consideration for an Oscar nomination.  2014 projects which made it to the big screen include Kula – a Memory in 3 Acts directed by Inadelso Cossa (Mozambique), The Colonel’s Stray Dogs directed by Khali Shamis (SA), The Sound of Masks directed by Sara Gouveia (SA/Mozambique), Alison directed by Uga Carlini (SA). The 2015 alumni projects which were completed include Amal directed by Mohamed Siam (Egypt), Not in my Neighbourhood directed by Kurt Orderson (SA), The Giant is Falling (working title After Marikana) directed by Rehad Desai (SA) had its international premiere at IDFA. The 2016 project The Letter directed by Maia von Lekow and Chris King (Kenya) premiered at IDFA in 2019 and also from that year, Working Womxn directed by Shanelle Jewnarain (SA) is in production.

“There are plenty more examples of films that have pushed through from their initial concepts, into production and then onto distribution and or screening,” says Edkins. “The documentary film community in Africa is still small and working with the DFM we try to find new talent constantly and work with the industry to hold space for the documentary. I know there are highly creative and talented people out there who have brilliant ideas, and I would like to encourage them to submit these for consideration for this year’s edition.”

To submit a project go to http://www.durbanfilmmart.co.za/ProjectSubmissions

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