New player to shake up SA television - TechCentral

New player to shake up SA television

SA’s television content and broadcasting market is hotting up with news that a new player, SouthTel VOD:TV, will launch services to South Africans on 1 September.

TechCentral can reveal exclusively that the new company, which is being launched by telecommunications specialist SouthTel in conjunction with partners, will offer video-on-demand (VOD) services to consumers in Southern African Development Community countries, including SA.

It already has the necessary licence from the Independent Communications Authority of SA.

VOD:TV will offer services similar to the US-based Netflix, but will deliver the content over satellite to personal video recorders (PVRs). Content will be delivered in high definition as default (in standard definition where HD material isn’t available).

News of VOD:TV’s plans come just a year after the launch of the first commercial rival to incumbent pay-TV operator MultiChoice. On Digital Media launched TopTV, a direct-to-home satellite service, last May.

VOD:TV’s PVRs, which have been in design and development for the past 24 months, will also be capable of receiving digital terrestrial television signals using the second-generation of the European standard SA recently adopted.

SouthTel CEO Oscar Dube says the service will offer push-based VOD and the company has already signed content agreements with major Hollywood production studios. He says the latest movies will be offered to subscribers before they arrive in video stores.

It’s not yet clear what specific movies and television series it will offer. MultiChoice’s DStv already has wide-ranging exclusive content agreements with international suppliers.

Dube says the company’s PVRs, which comply with the requirements of the content industry, will also allow people to surf the Internet by plugging in a USB 3G modem. SouthTel is working with the big mobile operators to offer modems to VOD:TV subscribers at commercial launch in September.

The VOD:TV remote control will feature a full Qwerty keyboard, allowing people to enter Web addresses and complete other tasks online.

A trial will take place in Gauteng, starting in the last week in June.

Though Dube says VOD:TV’s value proposition is different to the DStv satellite TV service, TechCentral believes the two companies are likely to butt heads. MultiChoice is strongly rumoured to be planning to launch a VOD service this year called Box Office, also offering the latest movies and other content before this material is distributed to conventional broadcasters.

Dube is reluctant to reveal how much the service will cost, but says a subscription won’t be more than R200/month. Premium content will have to be bought on top of that.

“The system automatically records a selection of programming, transmitted in spare satellite capacity, and subscribers can then watch the downloaded programming at the time they desire,” Dube explains.

“As content occupies space on the PVR’s hard drive, downloaded content is deleted after a few days to make way for newer programmes.

“The description of each item of content includes the title and a brief description, and there’s a capability to show trailers, a reference identifier and price of the movie or series. Purchases can be completed using several e-commerce methods.”

The PVR will provide access to services such as Facebook, Skype and Web-based e-mail applications.

He says the company is working hard to get the required sales channels and other operational aspects of the business in place ahead of the launch.  — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral

  • On Friday, TechCentral will have the opportunity to test the service and the PVR. We’ll also provide additional details about VOD:TV at that time. 


  1. Interesting- more competition- but dont they need a broadcasting licence to beam into SA? Love the idea though!

  2. Looks good, hopefully we’ll get more info on their content. Wonder what the chances of getting them getting access to some of the local sport for a pay-per-view service too.

  3. Keith Nkula Mtandle on

    Great news! Together with our ultra modern digital tv standard DVB-T2, South Africa´s broadcasting distribution will become all latest generation.

  4. This is absolutely great news! Similar to HBO GO but using DVB-H I assume… I still remember the days when this was mere an “Imagine that” concept with very little following! Cant wait! Excellent! Broadcast design and communication strategies will be greatly influenced by this shift.

  5. @Eddie Our understanding is that the box will deliver its push VOD via DVB-S and will also have a DVB-T2 chip for terrestrial digital. Don’t think DVB-H comes into the equation…

  6. DVB – S. Yes, of course… So this will not in future perhaps enable users to access their content via DVB H and then sync to PVR for viewing? Stiil, VOD is the way to go!

  7. The don’t need a broadcast licence for VoD itself; although the reporter could have been more thorough in specifying what licence they did received. Based on ICASA discussion paper on VoD and IPTV last year, I think the consensus what that for “non-linear” i.e. non-real time, un-programmed material as is the case with VoD, that a ECS licence is sufficient – as if one were offering the service over Broadband.

    If however they are also distributing the signal over satellite, then they would need ECNS and spectrum licences; however they are probably using Oribcom or another such duly licence company for this.

  8. This underscores the principle of technology and service neutrality whi

    This underscores the principle of technology and service neutrality. People should disabuse the notion that broadcasting services is not electronic communication services. Convergence is the name of the game. by this we mean any type of network can deliver any type of service The mobile phone, the DTV, , the Computer are simply end user devices to consume content. So VOD as a service is technology agnostic. Broadcasting should be subsumed as an ECNS. then we do not have to worry about whether we need a broadcasting licence or not. VOD or multimedia services can be delivered via any conceivable ICT technology

  9. New Dawn is currently in IN-ORBIT testing and should be operational by Mid June, or so.

  10. “On Friday, TechCentral will have the opportunity to test the service and the PVR. We’ll also provide additional details about VOD:TV at that time.”
    Its Friday

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