eMedia Investments, the holding company of e.tv, eNCA and Openview, has plunged headfirst into streaming, launching eVOD, a video-on-demand service, in partnership with MTN South Africa.
eVOD offers free (advertising supported), subscription and transactional-based content, including television series and movies.
Partner MTN is offering all its customers, prepaid and post-paid, 4GB of data per month to access the service, provided they sign up for an eVOD subscription – though this requirement is waived until 31 January 2022, meaning all 32 million MTN customers in South Africa qualify for the free data allocation. The companies said this will provide about 14 hours of viewing before the data is used up. eMedia’s partnership with MTN is exclusive for three years.
eMedia is developing original movies and series for the platform, which is available immediately and can be streamed on the Web or via mobile apps built for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. The local content slate means eVOD is likely to come up against both Netflix and MultiChoice Group’s Showmax for share of wallet.
Much of the content on the platform will be free. Subscribers will be able to watch up to five episodes of popular eMedia-commissioned content, including soapies, before the episodes are broadcast on television.
Although eMedia has partnered with MTN in the venture, consumers on other telecommunications networks will be able to access the service, though they will have to pay for data consumed. Content will be streamed using an adaptive bitrate, up to a resolution of 720p. It is aimed at mobile consumption but can also be consumed as a “lean-back experience”.
Though support for Chromecast, Apple TV and similar devices is not available at launch, it’s understood these will be developed and released at a future date. Support for smart TVs is also part of the development road map.
The eVOD service allows paying subscribers to “fast-forward” content, meaning they can watch episodes of television shows in advance of their airing on e.tv. It will “showcase locally produced high-end dramas and movies that can only be seen on eVOD”, eMedia said. Content also includes dramas dubbed into Afrikaans. There’s also a catch-up service, which is free of charge.
eMedia Investments CEO Khalik Sherrif described eVOD as a “game changer” for the company, and its viewers. “We can now offer our audiences access to exclusive viewing content where and when they want it,” he said.
eVOD original content at launch includes a series called Is’phindiselo, which is not available on other eMedia properties (for now). It has also launched an original movie, Atlantis, which is available to subscribers only. More original content will follow.
Users can choose between daily, weekly and monthly subscription options and they get access to all content no matter the tier they pay for. Daily subscriptions, which remain active for 24 hours, cost R5. A weekly option is available for R15, while monthly subscribers pay R29.99. Users can subscribe with their mobile number, or an e-mail address, and they can sign up through Apple and Google.
Sherrif said the eVOD service complements eMedia’s existing assets, including e.tv, which is one of South Africa’s most-watched television channels. He said eMedia has no immediate plans to offer its linear channels via eVOD, many of which are available on MultiChoice’s DStv and eMedia’s own Openview direct-to-home free-to-air satellite platform.
eMedia head of content Marlon Davids said the company plans to invest over R100-million in originals, including four series and “at least” 10 movies per year. There is about 2 500 hours of content available at launch, including “hundreds of movies”, Davids said. – © 2021 NewsCentral Media