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YouTube Music arrives in SA

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YouTube has announced the launch of YouTube Music in South Africa.

YouTube Music is a new music streaming service that offers music videos, official albums, singles, remixes, live performances, covers and hard-to-find music that can only be found on YouTube.

The new ad-supported version of YouTube Music is free, while YouTube Music Premium, a paid membership that gives users background listening, downloads and an ad-free experience, costs R59.99 a month or R89.99 per month for a Family Plan. Users can get three months of YouTube Music Premium free here.

YouTube Music offers a number of features music lovers will really enjoy, says Google SA Head of Marketing Asha Patel: “A home screen that dynamically adapts to provide recommendations based on what you’ve played before, where you are and what you’re doing. Thousands of playlists across any genre, mood or activity. The hottest new music. And, no internet? No problem. Get YouTube Music Premium to listen ad-free, in the background and on-the-go with downloads.  Plus, your Offline Mixtape automatically downloads songs you love just in case you forgot to.

“With the Smart Search feature on YouTube Music, music lovers can find any song, even if they can’t remember what it’s called.”

Users can search for descriptions, lyrics and even emojis to find the tracks they want to listen to. Smart Search is available in most languages, including indigenous South African languages like isiZulu and isiXhosa.

“Google Play Music subscribers will automatically receive access to YouTube Music Premium at their current price,” says Patel. “Nothing is changing with Google Play Music – you’ll still be able to access all of your purchased music, uploads and playlists in Google Play Music.”

The new YouTube Music app is available to download from the Play Store and App Store or users can check out the web player at music.youtube.com and sign up for YouTube Premium at youtube.com/premium.

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget spent two days at Netflix studios last week, and ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read about Netflix’s international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Google announces its ‘Netflix for gaming’

The new gaming platform, Stadia, promises high-definition gaming on TVs, computers, and mobile devices, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Google has announced that it has moved into the gaming space, and it focuses on two big aspects of gaming: streaming of games for gamers, which will allow gamers to game anywhere with a fast, low-latency Internet connection; and audiences that watch gamers in-game.

This is a big move in making gaming accessible to more gamers, as it reduces hardware costs, by utilising the benefits of low-latency cloud computing. This will be achieved by using a globally connected network of Google data centres. Gamers who stream games are most likely already using a high-speed, low-latency Internet connection, so access to the Stadia platform will be an added expense.

Through the Stadia platform, gamers will be able to access a large library of games at all times, with no installation time, on virtually any screen. Scaling of hardware like CPU, GPU, memory, and storage is also possible, as one would for cloud server resources.

Google will be leveraging its other platforms, like YouTube, with Stadia streaming. It claims that 200-million people are watching game-related content daily on YouTube. This allows, for example, Stadia players to jump in with other Stadia players – no downloads, no updates, no patches, and no installs.

For console players, Google has designed a custom controller.

The controller was designed to establish a direct connection from the Stadia controller to Google’s data centre through Wi-Fi for the best possible gaming performance. The controller also includes a button for instant capture, saving, and sharing gameplay in 4K resolution. It sports a Google Assistant button and built-in microphone, as many Google products do, for voice control. 

The device is expected to be released later this year, pending FCC approval.

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