Liquid Telecom backing new SA TV venture - TechCentral

Liquid Telecom backing new SA TV venture

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Liquid Telecom, the pan-African fibre telecommunications firm controlled by Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet Group, has emerged as one of the principal backers of Hola Media, an aspiring South African video-on-demand (VOD), Internet protocol television (IPTV) and digital terrestrial television provider, which is seeking a free-to-air broadcasting licence from communications regulator Icasa.

Liquid has taken a 20% stake in the business, with businessman Lincoln Mboweni and his wife, well-known businesswoman Noli Mboweni, owning a further 30%.

The remaining 50% percent of the company is held by an entity called the CSG Trust, which will play a role in developing the content production industry in South Africa.

In a presentation at public hearings called by Icasa on Wednesday into the licensing of new free-to-air broadcasters in South Africa, Hola Media said it intended to offer a mix of free-to-air terrestrial TV along with VOD and IPTV services. Although VOD providers don’t require a licence to operate, those wanting to provide linear IPTV services do.

Addressing the Icasa panel at the hearings, Lincoln Mboweni said Liquid Telecom has the IPTV platform and other technologies to allow Hola Media to deliver on its strategy. “They will take a stake in us and share in the risk as we engage in this project,” Mboweni said.

In its oral submission, Hola Media said it intends delivering content to multiple devices, not only set-top boxes, but also through a mobile app for tablets and smartphones, as well as PCs and laptops.

Customers will also be able to download content for later viewing, something the company believes is important in the broadband-constrained South African market.

Few details are available yet about what sort of content Hola Media intends offering users, and which content, if any, will be charged for. The company intends integrating advertising into its offering to offset costs, it explained in its submission.

The company also hopes to create a platform for the distribution of content from a wider range of producers. “We see a big opportunity in South Africa for aspiring producers,” Mboweni said. “Mobile devices have allowed everyone to have a video camera and gone are the days of having to have HD cameras and expensive equipment. Our platform will allow people to produce content.”

He said Hola Media’s proposed offering is an “innovative product that doesn’t currently exist in the country”. He described it as a “value-added free-to-air-service” that will “allow people to get content through traditional means and also over the Internet”.

However, at Tuesday’s hearings an entity called Rubicon Investments, which is also applying for a free-to-air licence, took exception to the Hola Media licence application, arguing that it is not a free-to-air platform but is rather planning mainly to offer pay-TV services. Hola Media rubbished this assertion.

Rubicon also objected to Liquid Telecom holding certain veto rights in Hola Media. Liquid Telecom is a “foreign entity” that in effect has control of the business, Rubicon said. This is not allowed under law, Rubicon argued, and its application for a broadcasting licence should therefore be rejected.

“We are somewhat disappointed that a fellow applicant has taken a spoiler approach and we don’t understand its motivation,” said Liquid Telecom legal and commercial head Mike Silber at the hearings. Silber said the minority protections are “not unusual” and will benefit and protect both Liquid and its minority partners in Hola Media.  — © 2015 NewsCentral Media

9 Comments

  1. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Good move – I have a feeling that for a few years, the money in broadcasting here will be in the platforms, not the content. Like the gold rush – the people who got rich initially were the ones selling the tools, not the prospectors 🙂

  2. Can’t agree Greg – without content there is no point in a platform – to the extent that many are now working to create compelling content themselves. Rather like having a telephone and nothing to say…

  3. Can’t say I agree, the ones who offer decent content will be around for many years added to this they now need to compete with international offerings. There are only so many South Africans that will take up VOD , in which case we will see a good few unhappy investors

  4. Ofentse Letsholo on

    Well I guess we’ll have to wait and see how things will turn out, I just don’t want ShowMax to be a leader like DSTV is. I do however agree with you that not all will last but we need competition no matter how small market may seem.

  5. Can the FF+ put ads on it at prime time viewing? That would upset their target audience’s pap en vleis no end.

  6. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Indeed, but while the content creators are fighting over eyeballs, wherever those eyeballs land on the many channels on the Hola platform, Hola will get their cut.