South Africa: TMG launches VIDI VoD service, looking for extra quality AV content

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You are in South Africa and there is nothing to watch on TV tonight?

Check out VIDI, a video-on-demand (VoD) service launched on 10th. September 2014 by Times Media Group (TMG), a major South African media company. VIDI offers online VoD to South African viewers. 

Just 48 hours after the launch, Balancing Act’s Sylvain Béletre spoke with the VIDI team in Johannesburg including Taryn Uhlmann, Marketing Manager (VOD Platforms, Broadcast and Content) at TIMES MEDIA FILMS to find out more.

Internet users in South Africa for year-end 2012 was estimated at 22 million for a population of 54 million inhabitants according to the ITU; 15 million used Broadband internet access either via fixed or mobile networks.

TMG owns a growing bouquet of television channels and has recently invested in television and radio platforms in Ghana and Kenya, with plans to extend to other countries. The company has 13 radio stations and a few TV channels (9 in Africa) in its assets today. With content delivery shifting from analog and print to digital, TMG went through a corporate restructuring transaction, changes in senior management and cost reduction initiatives in 2013. TMG executives see opportunities to invest in local TV and film production and are tracking the digital boom.

Andrew Bonamour, CEO for TMG, says: “VIDI represents a significant step in Times Media’s evolution to a multi-platform media and entertainment company. It reflects a new entrepreneurial and innovative mindset for the group that we believe will bring long term growth and sustainability.” “It builds on the recent diversification of the company into a range of high growth broadcast and content assets in South Africa and in West and East Africa.”

Q. How long did it take to build VIDI and how much has TMG invested in this service?
Did you build the platform yourself or have you purchased a platform or commission to a third party? How much does it take TMG to support the service per month?

A. We are not disclosing investment or operating numbers but we built the platform ourselves in South Africa and the project began about 18 months ago.  

Q. What is unique to VIDI vs. other services?

A. VIDI is the first South African user-friendly streaming service to offer both a monthly subscription option and/or an instant rental option across one platform. There is no programme scheduling but rather instant access to thousands of hours of entertainment.
Viewers have two options: Unlimited Subscription to a library of movies and award-winning TV series for only R149 (10.50 Euros, USD 13.60) per month.  Sign up is easy with the first month on subscription offered as a trial period. Viewers don’t require a dish or a decoder and they can cancel their subscription anytime as there are no contracts.  Viewers also have the option to instantly rent the latest releases just off the circuit for R27 (USD 2.50) and a selection of premier library titles from as little as R15 (USD 1.40).

Q. Is the service geo-blocked to South African viewers only or is it available globally? If only in South Africa, do you plan to extend the service to other countries, and if so in which ones?

A. For content rights’ reasons, VIDI’s website only supports IP addresses located in South Africa, but we will look at expanding into Africa in the future.

Q. What is the model for content owners supplying films to VIDI? (exclusivity? minimum revenue limits, etc.?)

A. The content model varies and is confidential per contractual agreements.

Q. Are you still looking for films, series etc. and if so which genres? (e.g. Africa made content?) Who is the right person to talk to for content acquisition at VIDI?

A. Yes we are, we are constantly updating our content catalogue.  The contact for content acquisition at VIDI is Keshnie Moodley – KeshnieM(at) African productions – South African or Nigerian for example – will be a key focus for us. We are exploring various genres and niches: films, series, documentaries, magazine, sports etc.

Q. What are the technology apps used to run VIDI? (player, billing, etc.)

A. Microsoft Silverlight mainly.

Q. Where do you host the VIDI app and the catalogue? Do you use any local commercial data centre(s)? which one(s)?

A. We host the majority of the service on Amazon.

Q. Is VIDI a multi-screen service? How many devices can you connect with one account? Which web browsers do you need to run the service?

A. It is available across multi devices: PC, tablets and smartphones (Apple iOS soon and basic Android player currently), connected TV sets or video projector via an HDMI plug.  Contractually, we are allowed 4 devices linked to a single account and 2 concurrent streams.  Web browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 or later, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox Version 2 or later, Microsoft Silverlight Player Plug-in.

Q. At some point, do you plan on providing the system via satellite as well? (push VoD)

A. Not at this stage.

Q. Do you plan on providing a VIDI mobile app?

A. Yes our app is imminent on Apple and a basic player is already available on Android

Q. Do you plan on partnering with national telcos, TV set and mobile terminal manufacturers  to better distribute the service?

A. TMG is developing an application for smart TVs, which should be ready by December 2014. This will allow Internet-connected TVs to stream content directly without the need to connect another screen/internet device and we are in discussions with various players in the market.

Q. Who are you targeting with VIDI? How many transaction do you plan on generating per month in 2014-2015?  Do you provide parental control features for content not suited to children?

A. VIDI’s content is catering for all ages and tastes. At launch we believe take-up will be mostly in urban areas and are targeting connected households. We provide a parental guidance option to set age restrictions which is password protected.  We have a large selection of kids content and a specific ‘Kids Playzone’ with content targeting 2-10 year olds.  We do not have any porn.

Q. What is your catalogue made of exactly? What about ‘made in Africa’ content?

A. We have a broad international and growing local content offering and are looking to expand both, including African content.

The R149 a month subscription offer allows for unlimited viewing of a library of more than 1000 hours of television series and over 100 movies and is constantly growing. VIDI also has a 'Kids Playzone', with a large selection of children's content from TV series to the latest movie releases.

The Instant Rental Service offers a mix of 72 of the latest blockbusters just off the cinema circuit as well as select library titles, with new titles being added every month, ranging from R15 - R27 a title.

Adds Andrew Gill, MD of Broadcast and Content at TMG, ”We have secured some of the very best available content from the biggest names in the industry. We will be constantly refreshing our offering with new and exciting films and series”

Highlights include all seasons of this year’s top Emmy-winner Breaking Bad, an ABC branded block including popular titles such as Greys Anatomy, Cougar Town, Brothers and Sisters and Missing, as well as the all-seasons 10th Anniversary special of Lost, which premiered in the US 10 years ago this September. VIDI will also be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the classic series « Friends » in November.

Other TV titles include the popular and most viewed online series ‘Supernatural’ and the teen drama mystery-thriller ‘Pretty Little Liars’.  Movie fare over the following months includes the Oscar-winning drama’s ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ and ‘American Hustle’, the highly acclaimed ‘Gravity’, blockbusters ‘Divergent’ and ‘Need For Speed’ and the recent ‘Maleficent’ and ‘The Lego Movie’.  We also have local South African Film, Die Windpomp available for Instant Rental.

Picture above: picture of Tom Cruise in 'Edge of Tomorrow' available on VIDI.

Q. What is VIDI’s business model? Does VIDI provide free videos such as trailers, film news and interviews?

A. VIDI is a paid only service: it is an advert-free platform but we also provide free content descriptions and trailers.

Q. Can you access VIDI with a low bandwidth internet access and what is the minimum speed required?

A. VIDI is adaptive to internet speeds and can work from slow or fast internet connections. It adapts to your internet connection to optimise viewing experience. A minimum of a 1MB speed is required to avoid any buffering issues, but the higher your speed is, the better the experience. We highly recommend 2 to 4 Mb/sec.

Q. Which VoD services do you consider as competing with VIDI?

 A. There are very few competitors in this market in SA.  There are some illegal services also operating.  We have differentiators in pricing options, features, support, technology and content.

Q. How many transactions/subscriptions did VIDI get just 48 hours after the launch?

A. More than we expected
Q. How to use VIDI and how long does it take to set up an account?

A. Go to to register, which will take less than 5 minutes. You will need a credit card to sign up. Certain current account/debit cards are accepted, depending on your bank.

Once you have signed up, watch instantly on your PC, Mac, Laptop, Apple and Android Tablets and Smartphones.  You can also connect your device to your television via a HDMI cable for immediate big screen entertainment. 

“How to Guides” are available on the VIDI website to help with this process. All you need is to be connected to the internet with at least a 1MB/second download internet speed.

Q. Do you provide client support? (via email/phone?)

A. Yes, we have How to Guides and a Vidi Wizard on the site and a call centre +27 11 507 47 51.

To celebrate its arrival, VIDI is offering a 30-day trial membership so that South Africans can experience the service.





Digital Content Africa: Balancing Act's web TV channel Smart Monkey TV has launched a new e-letter called Digital Content Africa. On a fortnightly basis, it covers online film, music, publishing and services and applications. We have already produced 21 issues and these can be viewed on this link: Essential reading for those in broadcast or film. If you would like to subscribe, just send an email to with Digital Content Africa in the title line.

Here are some examples of past issues below:

You Tube provides a platform for piloting new TV series: An African City and Al Bernameg light the way

Licensing delays stall Kenya’s “i-Tunes” content platform on a Raspberry Pi but end may be in sight

The Mobile Deal that is keeping Africans from having more music, film and TV on their mobiles

Online film, music and TV content in Africa – In search of the elusive business model

Video clip interviews this week:

Director Abey Esho on the trials and tribulations of shooting the iROKO TV web/tv series Festac Town

Ulrich Stark on how broadcasters can make money on social media platform Wezwa

Man on Ground Akin Omotoso on his latest film a rom-com called Tell Me Sweet Something

Director of Dr Bello, Tony Abulu on his next film Superstar slated for release in March 2015

Evert van der Veer, Head of Comedy Central, Africa on the South African comedy scene and programmes they make

Three competition winners talk about the film they'll make for Afrinolly's Cinema4Change

Mandy Roger on exclusive African content coming on Pana TV inc a Basketmouth series

Jason Njoku, iROKO on launching its production arm ROK Studios to test film and TV series

Egyptian TV satirist Bassem Youssef on fear as Govt's favorite weapon and satire as antidote

Prince Ade Bamiro on the twisted tale of Close Enemies, 1st Nollywood film shot in Hollywood

Tinsel director Tope Oshin Ogun on her film Journey To Self and her next TV series

Jeremy Nathan on a film about Nelson Mandela as the "Black Pimpernel" - Mandela's Gun

"Balancing Act" is looking for sponsors to produce a free monthly e-letter in French on the ‘audiovisual sector in Africa’.

To date, there has been not a single source of information in French on this market segment.
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