MultiChoice takes the leap into broadband for rugby package

Technology & Convergence

MultiChoice is branching out from satellite television with its new broadband rugby offering. It is branching out from satellite television with its new broadband rugby offering, but it's hardly a case of being ahead of the pack because there is no pack.

It was almost 18 months ago that e.Sat, On Digital Media and Telkom Media were awarded their subscription broadcasting licences and the South African consumer is yet to see any of these players enter the market.

e.Sat were the first to bail out, opting to sell its 24-hour news channel to the incumbent, MultiChoice. Telkom Media fell by the way side when its parent company Telkom pulled its funding for the start-up and On Digital Media have been conspicuously silent.

So it appears that although these three main players were happy to make a huge song and dance before the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa in a bid to get their hands on the valuable licences, the broadcasting sector has seen no positive results.

Fitting then that the first broadcaster to begin offering a broadband live streaming and video-on-demand product is MultiChoice. The product is called Rugby Zone (http://www.rugbyzone.com) and subscribers with a high- speed broadband package and a credit card can watch rugby streamed through their broadband for a mere R83 a month.

While a DStv premium service will cost you R469 per month, or R5 628 for the year, an annual subscription to Rugby Zone will set you back US$99.99 (R1 000).

For that you get all of the South African Rugby Union matches, which includes Super 14, Tri-Nations, Currie Cup and the Air New Zealand Cup. In addition you will get the Heineken Cup and selected American and Canadian rugby too.

Subscribers can choose to watch the games live or at a convenient time for them as all the rugby is available in various video-on-demand formats.

"It's broadcast live and on demand," says Ray Moore Supersport's head of New Media. "The beauty of the internet is you can cut it up into different packages, so we have a short highlights package, a condensed version of the game that is 26 minutes and a full version of the game, plus there is a download option."

Moore says the service has been running from the United States over the past three years and servicing mainly American and Canadian audiences. But SuperSport decided to relocate the service to South Africa over the past six months.

Rugby Zone has more than 6 500 subscribers, 55% of these are Americans and Canadians and the remaining 45% are from Europe and Asia. "South Africa and Africa are definitely not our target market," says Moore.

"Broadband penetration here is way too low and all our hosting and encoding is done internationally because of the international bandwidth constraints that our country faces."

But Moore says that the Seacom cable's imminent arrival in June this year could alter the status quo. "The point is that we need to be designing for the future and not the present and we are hoping that Seacom and other cables that come into the country will change the landscape significantly."

But even if the broadband landscape does change and South Africa becomes a bigger market for Rugby Zone, Moore is adamant that offerings such as this will not eat into DStv's market share. "This is a complimentary service, it's not an either or service," says Moore.

"Even with us using high bit rates it's quite a different broadcasting experience, the television broadcast is at several times the bitrate than the broadband viewing experience." The consumers will decide.

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