New player to shake up South African television


South Africa’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 South Africa. 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.

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