SA’s newest television challenger, SouthTel Group’s VOD:TV, has revealed more details about its plans to launch a satellite-based video-on-demand service later this year.
The company will go to market in partnership with mobile operators and has already concluded its first agreement with one of SA’s big mobile providers. The company’s founder and CEO, Oscar Dube, says he can’t name the operator yet because of confidentiality clauses.
He says he’s keen to do deals with other SA cellphone companies and with operators elsewhere in Southern Africa.
VOD:TV expects to sign up 120 000 users within three years of launch, Dube says.
The service was meant to go live on 1 September but the launch date has been pushed back by a few months while content and other agreements are concluded. He says he is confident the service will launch commercially before the end of the year.
The company has started a field trial in 40 homes. It has also placed its first order for personal video recorder (PVR) decoders from Germany’s TechnoTrend Görler.
TechCentral first revealed VOD:TV’s plans in May. The company intends to offer transactional and subscription video on demand delivered via satellite. Decoders will feature a Sim card slot and an active USB port, allowing for two-way interactivity and Internet access. This will allow for, among other things, advertising tailored according to a subscriber’s geographic location.
VOD:TV will deliver the latest, selected TV shows and movies to the high-definition PVR via an IntelSat satellite. However, it won’t offer live broadcast TV directly itself, but rather TV content that is downloaded and stored on the PVR for “on-demand” viewing by subscribers. Content will be a mix of standard- and high-definition material.
TechnoTrend Görler’s PVRs will allow interactive services such as voice-over-Internet Protocol telephony and Web browsing. Dube even hints it may double as a Wi-Fi hotspot for in-home connectivity to other devices.
Though it’s working with mobile operators, Dube says VOD:TV will manage the customer base and all billing of subscribers. It will buy data in bulk from operators, probably offering an “all-you-can-eat” data model (with restrictions) to prevent bill shock.
In May, Dube told TechCentral that about half the content delivered to the PVRs will be available for viewing as part of a subscription fee. The rest of the delivered content, which will include the latest Hollywood blockbusters, will be available for purchase, much like one would rent a DVD from a video store. The primary focus will be on transactional video on demand.
Negotiations with content partners are ongoing, but Dube is confident the company will offer programming that isn’t available in SA through existing pay-TV operators MultiChoice (DStv) and On Digital Media (TopTV).
He maintains, however, that the service is meant to be complementary to pay-TV providers, despite MultiChoice’s launch last month of a somewhat similar product called BoxOffice. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral
- See also: SA’s new TV challenger: all the details