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.