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NEW MEDIA

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VOD

Demand escalates in an

expanding industry

Video-on-demand (VOD) technology is developing at an indeterminate speed with new players entering the market regularly. The convergence of technologies is blurring the distinction between mobile units and television sets. Despite South Africa’s low internet penetration, currently at less than 50 per cent, it has not deterred the rising usage of VOD platforms in the country. 40 | SCREENAFRICA | May 2016

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ccording to a new Nielsen VOD survey, 63 per cent of South Africans watch some kind of VOD programming on an online device. The Nielsen survey polled more than 30 000 online respondents in 61 countries including SA, and found that rather than replacing paid traditional TV services, South Africans are supplementing traditional viewing habits with online service subscriptions. The delivery of video content is shifting towards subscription-based VOD and consumer habits are changing, a development that provides hope for revenue stream diversification for all players involved. Kgositsile Poonyane, head of marketing at SA VOD industry player ONTAPtv.com, says that VOD is a relatively new way of seeing films and TV series and that the cost of data is an issue. “Against this, there are huge advantages. People have choice, they have thousands of films and episodes to choose from and watch when it is convenient to them. And VOD is mobile, you can choose to watch a movie, a TV series or a documentary on your smart phone or tablet. In short VOD is the future for most people,” says Poonyane. At the start of 2016 Netflix entered 130 new countries. This move introduced the VOD service to 4.51 million new subscribers in territories outside its native United States market pushing it up to 70 million customers in more than 190 countries worldwide. This didn’t deter ONTAP. “With our local content offering, blockbuster rentals and download (to

view later offline) capability we have our unique positioning,” says Poonyane. Nigerian VOD operator iROKOtv is one of YouTube’s largest channel partners in Africa, with a total of 396 movie and music channels generating 65 million views every single month. “Netflix arriving in Africa certainly raised the overall profile of the huge potential market that is VOD in Africa,” said iROKO CEO Jason Njoku. “iROKO continues on its quest to bring Nollywood to millions on the continent, so from that perspective, our vision stays the same. iROKO is built for Africa – mobile-first, Android-first, download-only and we are also priced for this market. So our offering, in terms of content, our product and our prices are totally built around an African audience.” Internet TV, VOD or SVOD platforms are seeing double digit growth figures across Africa, as the continent’s growing population expects to access their favourite content 24/7 online. OTT and internet TV will, this decade, become a serious player in Africa’s content consumption market, going head-to-head with the continent’s more established linear FTA and pay TV networks. ONTAP notes that customers prefer the opportunity to “binge watch their favourite TV series,” says Poonyane. The biggest challenge they face is broadband limitation which is why they have enabled download as well as streaming packages. “We are however encouraged by the growth in cost effective broadband in

South Africa.” iROKO too has continued to face challenges regarding streaming long-format content because of issues with broadband connectivity. This is why in 2015, we essentially decided to switch off the streaming part of the platform and build iROKOtv app,” said Njoku. South Africans have increasing choice, gone are those days when pay and free-to-air TV were the only options. “VOD will go from strength to strength, and ONTAP will continue to be innovative with regards to our service and also the options of content we provide for our target audience,” confirms Poonyane. “The future is probably best focussed on mobile and internet TV, VOD and the live streaming of long format content in Africa is going to remain hugely challenging as long as the continent’s broadband infrastructure remains patchy (at best) and expensive,” says Njoku. “However, watching content on the go, via mobile, will without a doubt be the future for content consumption on the continent.” According to statistics portal Statista, faster internet speeds globally are expected to increase VOD subscribers to 200 million by 2020, from around 83 million last year. SA can already enjoy local offerings from Vidi, BoxOffice, Altech Node, ShowMax, MTN VU, FutureTV among international players as the industry continues to expand. – Cera-Jane Catton

Screen Africa May 2016