The crowded South African video-on-demand (VOD) market is getting even more crowded.
A new entrant, InterneTV — the brainchild of broadcasting equipment supply industry veteran John Carvalho — has launched a VOD service for phones and tablets called C-flix and is gearing up to launch a residential VOD solution called INtv in the coming months.
C-flix, which delivers VOD through apps for Android and iOS devices, costs US$3,99/month (about R62) or $39,99/year (R620). It offers mainly older movies and television series.
With the yet-to-be-launched INtv — pricing for which hasn’t yet been been set — Carvalho is promising to launch with blockbuster titles before they come to other platforms.
Carvalho, who has worked in the broadcasting industry in South Africa for the past 25 years — mainly on the equipment supply side — started work on InterneTV a number of years ago and quickly realised the need to partner with an international company to secure content.
InterneTV now has a range of content as well as access to an Internet protocol television (IPTV) platform through Malaysian partner Select TV.
C-flix has about 15 000 titles, mainly older titles. Content is distributed from the US, through partner Blue Wave Media. It does not use a local content distribution network for C-flix, unlike many of its rivals, though it intends establishing infrastructure in South Africa for INtv.
Although C-flix is aimed at smartphones, subscribers can “swipe to play” content on their TVs, provided both devices are connected to the same local-area network.
Streaming uses adaptive bit-rate technology, so quality will depend on the speed of the user’s connection. Streams of up to 1080p resolution are possible on a fast connection. Users can’t, however, select the quality they’d prefer to stream at.
Although C-flix is only available through apps for now, Carvalho says a Web streaming option is in the works. “Within the next six to eight weeks, the website will be up and running and people will be able to stream straight from there,” he says.
The next feature to be launched, at the end of April, is transactional VOD, offering movie rentals on demand.
INtv, meanwhile, will offer the latest Hollywood content and will be positioned as a direct rival to ShowMax, Netflix, ONTAPtv.com, MTN VU and other VOD services that have been launched in South Africa in the past year, says Carvalho.
INtv will be offered through the Web, apps and an IPTV set-top box, which has already been developed.
Through Select TV, he says InterneTV has secured the latest Hollywood blockbusters before they go to DVD rental. “We already have [the new James Bond movie] Spectre, which releases on DVD on 25 March.”
Carvalho says he is in talks with telecommunications operators about launching INtv in partnership and providing some of the funding for the launch — estimated at R10m. He has vowed that INtv will be “superior and cheaper” to other offerings in the market. “We will get TV series overnight from the US [immediately after they are broadcast].”
He says the rapid roll-out of fibre-to-the-home broadband in South Africa has presented a great opportunity for VOD players to disrupt the broadcasting sector.
InterneTV is not scaling up to the size of ShowMax and others, with Carvalho vowing to keep the operation “as lean and mean as possible”. For now, it’s only him, backed up by 15 people at Blue Wave in the US and 45 people at Select TV in Malaysia.
However, for INtv’s launch, which he says will happen later this year, the company will build up a local team and deploy infrastructure on the ground.
He has begun engaging with local content producers, too. “A local component is essential, especially as the subscriber base grows.”
Is Carvalho taking on too much attempting to compete with companies like Netflix and ShowMax (owned by media giant Naspers)?
“I look at it from a different perspective,” he says. “This industry is in its infancy. It is time for new players to come in with a different approach.
“It will be a lot of hard work competing against guys with deep pockets, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. If we can keep costs low, we have a winner. We will keep improving the product, keep it inexpensive, and hopefully people start to view it as an alternative.” — © 2016 NewsCentral Media