Vodacom reveals big VOD plans - TechCentral

Vodacom reveals big VOD plans

Shameel Joosub

Shameel Joosub

Vodacom is in talks with Netflix and other local and international video-on-demand (VOD) players with a view to them utilising the company’s billing infrastructure to provide consumers with flat-rate access to movies, series and other content, its group CEO, Shameel Joosub, revealed in an interview with TechCentral on Monday.

At the same time, Vodacom is readying a comprehensive VOD offering of its own, which will be launched in the first half of next year, Joosub said. It hasn’t come up with a name for the service yet, he added.

Confirming that Vodacom is in talks with Netflix ahead of the American VOD provider’s launch in South Africa, which is expected sometime in 2016, Joosub said the operator is keen to partner with all international video streaming companies wanting to launch services locally. Vodacom, he said, is building a platform that will allow VOD providers’ subscribers to pay for content using airtime (in the case of prepaid users) or be invoiced (if they are contract subscribers).

Vodacom has spent considerable time building the backend system that will make this possible, Joosub said. Consumers will be able to pay for a movie, for instance, and have the data charges included in the purchase price of the content, he explained. Or they’ll be able to access streaming content for a set period of time at a fixed cost. And they’ll be able to do this in the content provider’s software because Vodacom intends exposing an application programming interface, or API, allowing third-party providers to offer this, he added.

It won’t only be available to streaming video providers, but also to games developers, Joosub said.

“We want you to be able to pay for in-game stuff on your bill. If you need a weapon, you can charge the weapon to the bill. We see the bill replacing the credit card.”

Vodacom also intends playing in the VOD market directly and will launch its own offering in the new year. Joosub said the company will ensure it has the right content offering before coming to market.

The operator has already begun exploring opportunities in the VOD market. In August, it launched an app called Video Play, which utilises spare network capacity to download and cache selected content at a reduced cost to consumers.

Users preselect their content, which is then downloaded during low-demand periods (typically overnight). Rather than billing per unit of data, Video Play bills in minutes, not megabytes, allowing customers to control and manage their spend.

The app offers access to a selection of mobile videos from content producers such as eNCA, e.tv, Urban Brew and MobiTV.

Once in the app, users select the videos they want to watch and add them to their download queue. Video Play then manages the download of the content to the device overnight. Once downloaded, the customer can watch the videos offline, whenever they want.

Users have to buy a prepaid bundle of minutes, available in the app, to use the service. There is no charge for browsing, only for the minutes of the video they download. “For example, if a three-minute video is downloaded, only three minutes will be deducted from the video bundle. No other data charges apply,” Vodacom said.

“The platform is working well,” Joosub said. “We now just need to secure the right content.”  — © 2015 NewsCentral Media


  1. Greg Mahlknecht on

    >We see the bill replacing the credit card

    Um yeah, I don’t think so. The trend is the exact opposite way. Give your CC details to a big company (Apple, MS, Amazon) and then 1-click purchases from then on. Safe, secure, and pretty much risk free with tiny little overheads.

    The “include bandwidth” play is the only interesting thing here, and even then, only mildly interesting.

  2. I think Netflix should charge Vodacom for wanting to use its infrastructure. Isn’t that the same argument as wanting WhatsApp to pay for using the operators infrastructure? ;-p

  3. If Netflix partners with Vodacom, I will lose a lot of respect for them. We are trying to rid ourselves of these menacing oppressive operators, move forward with innovative, flexible and affordable services, not jump into bed with proponents of the exact opposite. Netflix and others should rather sell prepaid vouchers through local retail stores, in the same way that you can buy Google Play or iTunes vouchers. If going through Vodacom is the only way to get Netflix RSA, I will rather avoid it, and stick to Unotelly + Netflix USA, content considerations aside.

    The operators are destined to become dumb pipes. It’s time they stopped fighting it, accepted it, and focussed on their core competence of high speed and high performance networks. OTT players are destined to dominate the payments, content and (already) messaging spheres. It won’t be too long till they take over voice too.

  4. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Credit/Debit cards are a lot more prevalent than you think – it’s why things like m-pesa fail here. And they work very well even for small sub-R10 transactions. And a lot of the time they’re cheaper/less risky to deal with than cash.

    That aside, the market segment that Netflix, Showtime and any other service that consumes tens or hundreds of gigs of data a month appeals to, pretty much all have credit/debit cards.

    Kudos to Vodacom for trying to grab a bit of the OTT market, but I don’t see this going much further than m-pesa, their android app store, or any number of failed initiatives. They’re pretty good at being a dumb pipe, they make a metric crap-ton of money doing it, and will continue to do so.

  5. Greg Mahlknecht on

    You know who’s REALLY getting screwed in all this? Poor Eskom. MTN, Vodacom, CellC are all building their businesses on electricity – they’d be nowhere without it. I can’t remember the last time any of them invested billions in a power station… they’re just providing OTT electrical services 🙂

  6. “We now just need to secure the right content.”

    Riiiiight. Or admit that you shouldn’t be in the content game.

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