MultiChoice plans big changes to its video-on-demand offerings, including a radical refresh of the design of DStv Now, the streaming version of its satellite service, and new local content for its standalone VOD platform Showmax.
This is according to the newly appointed CEO of MultiChoice Africa Group’s Connected Video unit, Niclas Ekdahl, who joined the group two months ago to spearhead its streaming video efforts.
Speaking to TechCentral on Friday, Ekdahl said MultiChoice is working to make big user interface changes to DStv Now to make it easier and quicker for subscribers to surface relevant content.
“We are going to build video on demand that is really effortless for consumers,” he said. “We’re not there yet, and there is a long journey ahead of us, but we will get there.”
A key priority, Ekdahl said, is harnessing user data to deliver content to viewers that is “relevant on an individual basis”. He conceded that DStv Now is “a little too clunky” and that this “needs to be fixed” to ensure viewers can find what they want with the minimum hassle.
He reconfirmed the group’s plan to launch a “dishless”, or streaming-only, version of DStv next year, but declined to comment on the plans in this regard. At the moment, DStv Now is a value-added service for DStv satellite subscribers, but MultiChoice plans to make it a standalone product, too, in 2019.
He hinted that the dishless product would only be launched after the user experience has been refreshed.
He also suggested that a 4K version of DStv Now is not imminent, with development teams focusing most of their efforts on improving the user experience first. DStv Now offers some channels in up to 1080p quality, though it employs “adaptive bitrate” streaming, meaning those on slower or mobile connections will get a less bandwidth-intensive experience.
“We are constantly looking into it,” Ekdahl said of the group’s 4K streaming plans. “I want to bring down the lowest bitrate to make it more affordable on mobile, while at the same time making sure we are delivering the top-notch quality people are asking for.”
That could include 4K or even 8K streaming, he said. “But right now it’s really about making sure we have as many adaptive bitrates (as possible).”
The number of 4K devices connected to high-speed broadband in both South Africa and the rest of Africa is still “very low”, Ekdahl said. “To get it into DStv Now is not impossible. But it’s a matter of saying, when do we do it versus revamping the experience on the website? It’s not prioritised above some of the other things we have on the road map.”
As for Showmax, which was merged into MultiChoice last year (it was previously a standalone business in the Naspers group), Ekdahl said there are plans to develop more original programming. Showmax plans to launch a new South African series, a murder mystery called The Girl From St Agnes, soon, following the success of the comedy, Tali’s Wedding Diary.
He said Showmax is going to integrate more tightly with MultiChoice “to get synergies and work together as much as we can”.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, Ekdahl said MultiChoice’s research suggests that so-called “over-the-top” (OTT) streaming services like Netflix are not yet undermining linear TV viewing habits. “It’s in addition to that,” he said.
He expects OTT viewing to develop most strongly on mobile devices, rather than on fixed-line broadband, where penetration will remain relatively low for the next five years. “For MultiChoice, that’s kind of cool, because cord-cutting on a mass scale is not there. But the OTT market will open up.”
There will be 10 million OTT subscriptions across sub-Saharan Africa by 2023, generating US$775-million in revenue. At the same time, however, the pay-TV market in the region will grow to 40.9 million subscriptions, up from 26.4 million in 2018, outstripping the volume growth in OTT subscriptions.
He said DStv Now has up to 250 000 daily active users on busy days. There is also lower churn among consumers who use both satellite and DStv Now. — © 2018 NewsCentral Media