2017 saw the launch of several new streaming video services in South Africa including Black, DEOD, Kwese Play, and LIT TV. MTN shut down its video platform, VU, which was operated by Discover Digital. However, Discover Digital soon launched Digital Entertainment On Demand (DEOD).
Much like VU, DEOD offers subscription video on demand services and movie rentals. It also has a range of live streaming TV channels. Where DEOD was the first new streaming video service to launch in South Africa in 2017, Black from Cell C was the last of the year.
With Black, Cell C hopes to launch an entertainment brand which exists separately from its cellular services. The Black portal contains sports betting, games, and event ticketing services, but its main feature at launch was its on-demand video platform. Like DEOD, Black offers several different types of video services collected in a variety of bundles.
These include a movie rental service, subscription video on demand through “Flexi” packages, and live TV channel streaming through BTV and football club channels such as Chelsea and Manchester United TV. Cell C has also concluded a deal with Fox to offer its bouquet of channels to the African market for R99 per month. Content from Fox’s on-demand service, Fox NOW, will also be coming to Black in the future.
Setting itself apart from similar services, Cell C has launched an Android-based media device called blackBOX, which subscribers can connect to a TV via HDMI. While Discover Digital and Cell C launched their own video entertainment platforms based on their own content licensing deals, Econet Media and Telkom have taken a different route.
Netflix in South Africa
Rather than building their own streaming services, the pair of African telecommunications giants have instead decided to offer easier access to existing services. Econet, through its subsidiary Kwese, inked deals with Roku and Netflix to become their official partners in Africa, and launch Kwese Play.
It sells a Kwese-branded Roku media player with access to several channels and services. This includes integrated billing for Netflix, allowing South Africans to pay for the streaming service in rand rather than US dollar. Telkom launched a suite of products under the “LIT” brand — LIT Music, LIT Video, and LIT TV.
LIT Video is available to FreeMe contract subscribers on 5GB packages and greater and offers free streaming from services such as Netflix and Showmax, under a fair usage policy of 50GB per month. LIT TV is a value-added service available to Telkom contract subscribers who take up specific fixed services. Clients on HomeUnlimited 8/10Mbps and greater, as well as SmartWireless 50GB receive a Telkom LIT TV media box.
Choose your own channels
A frequent request from pay-TV subscribers is the ability to choose their own channels, or simply more granular control over what they spend their subscription fees on. DStv has said that allowing subscribers to choose their own channels would be technically challenging the way its systems are currently configured, and warned that it could make pay-TV more expensive for fewer channels. However, with DEOD and Black added to South Africa’s streaming video landscape, along with platforms like LIT and Kwese Play that support existing popular services, 2017 was the year that choosing your own channels in South African started becoming a reality.
South Africans now have a choice of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video for a mix of licensed and original international content, as well as Showmax for local shows and content from MultiChoice-licensed networks like HBO and Comedy Central. Standalone live TV streaming services have also become available in South Africa thanks to Black and DEOD. As far as entertainment content is concerned, competition in South Africa has heated up and broadband subscribers now have a solid selection of platforms to choose from.
Premium sports remains the domain of SuperSport however, and requires a DStv subscription whether you are using a satellite decoder or streaming content through the DStv Now app on your Telkom LIT TV box.
- ^ MTN shut down its video platform (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ launched Digital Entertainment On Demand (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ Black (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ blackBOX (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ Kwese Play (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ LIT Video (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ LIT TV (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ Telkom’s Google-certified Android TV box (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ Netflix (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ Amazon Prime Video (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ Showmax (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ DStv Now (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ Choosing your own TV channels – be careful what you wish for (mybroadband.co.za)
The FPB recently announced a review of its tariffs and has proposed a new licensing fee for online content distributors. Under its proposed tariff structure, distributors will be required to pay the FPB an annual fee for every title on their platform. Netflix’s licence fee would be over R1 million if charged today, while Steam would have to pay at least R3.17 million to distribute games in SA.
Platforms will have to pay the fees even when their content has already been classified in South Africa, the FPB told MyBroadband. This is a terrible idea.
While the need for a board to set localised age restrictions is open to discussion, South Africa is not the only “small entertainment” country to have its own such agency. What is an issue is how the FPB wants to tax digital distributors for the privilege of “self classifying”.
Essentially, Netflix would be able to set its own age restrictions on content, then submit them to the FPB for “verification”. It is clear the FPB fee structure has little to do with covering the costs of providing classification services – which was revealed in the 2016 budget vote. The Ministry of Communications told National Treasury the current licensing fee for online content – a flat R795,000 – was introduced “in response to harsh economic conditions”.
While the FPB’s current flat licence fee is exorbitant, at least it is capped.
Companies aren’t punished for offering subscribers a wide selection of content. If an online distributor which charges a set monthly fee can cull unpopular content from its library without affecting its subscriber numbers, it will decrease the fee it must pay the FPB. The FPB is effectively telling Netflix, Showmax, and Amazon to have as lean a catalogue as their South African subscribers are willing to stomach.
Forget diversity and choice, the fewer shows you have the less you pay. Contrast this with the model employed by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). It charges an annual licence fee tiered according to how many titles are available on the platform, capped at ?4,400 – about R80,000 – per year.
If you have 100 titles or less, you pay nothing. You then pay a once-off fee per title classified: a ?25 submission fee plus ?2.91 per minute. You may pay a 10% or 50% higher fee to expedite your rating.
As the FPB wouldn’t actually watch self-classified content, I would argue the per-minute tariff shouldn’t apply to distributors which self-classify.
It is important to note that the UK is a significant market for providers like Netflix and Steam, while South Africa is a drop in the ocean. This means copying the UK pricing model is not necessarily a good idea. However, the BBFC’s model does present a guideline for a working system that doesn’t levy a punitive fee on distributors for having large content libraries.
The FPB said it is hoping to receive inputs from the industry to assist it in producing viable and realistic tariffs, so the current plans are not set in stone.
This is an opinion piece.
- ^ review of its tariffs (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ Netflix’s licence fee (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ at least R3.17 million (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ was revealed (mybroadband.co.za)
- ^ British Board of Film Classification (www.bbfc.co.uk)
- ^ Gov.za website (www.gov.za)
- ^ What Netflix will get for its R1-million FPB licence fee (mybroadband.co.za)
Amazon is giving away free copies of The Day of the Tentacle Remastered to users of its Twitch Desktop App, PC World reported. To qualify for the free game, you must be a Twitch Prime subscriber, which is included in an Amazon Prime Video subscription. Twitch has given away several free games in the past few months, including Breach & Clear, Oxenfree, and Gone Home.