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OTT player Viu targets low-budget streamers in SA

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 19 Oct 2023
Viu is now available in 16 markets across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Viu is now available in 16 markets across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Hong Kong-based over-the-top services provider Viu has set its sights on capturing the low-budget streaming market in South Africa.

This, as competition in the local streaming market continues to hot up, with players such as Netflix, Disney +, Amazon Prime, Showmax and Britbox jostling for a slice of the market.

In an interview with ITWeb last week, Rohit D’Silva, chief business officer for Middle East and South Africa at Viu, revealed the company’s “aggressive” plans to take on competition on South African turf.

Among its plans, Viu is looking to make more investments in SA and work with South African artists and producers to develop further local content.

D’Silva said Viu has, to date, produced three local movies and plans to add more local content to its catalogue.

Operated in a dual-revenue model comprising subscriptions and advertising, Viu delivers content in different genres from Asia’s top content providers with local language subtitles, as well as original production series under the Viu Original initiative (similar to original programming from other services like Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix).

Viu is now available in 16 markets across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Teaming up

“We launched in South Africa in the third quarter of 2019, and it has been a very exciting journey for us,” D’Silva said.

“We have partnerships with the telcos, e-commerce players and advertisers in the country. We are excited to be in the South African market because we have some of the most watched local content. We also have content from other geographies.”

According to D’Silva, Viu has over 66 million active monthly users globally. In SA, he said, the platform has over 4.5 million active monthly users.

After downloading the Viu app, users can watch a significant amount of content free of charge, and if they want to subscribe, there are various subscription options, he explained.

“They can subscribe for R69 per month or for R7 a day. That’s one of the flexibilities we have. We are excited about where our business is going in SA. We are seeing the amount of curated content that is being consumed online in SA is going up.

“We have also observed that South Africans are experimenting with the types of content they want to watch.”

D’Silva noted South African viewers are watching English shows but are also viewing programming in other languages, such as Spanish or Korean.

“We started our business in Asia in 2015 based on Korean content. In South Africa, our value proposition is local content, but Korean content is growing in popularity.”

Rohit D’Silva, chief business officer for Middle East and South Africa at Viu.
Rohit D’Silva, chief business officer for Middle East and South Africa at Viu.

Viu believes the global popularity of shows like “Squid Games” and “Narcos” has shown content from emerging markets can be just as addictive as that from Hollywood.

“In a few short years, Viu – with strong Korean, Turkish and international content verticals – has become a streamer with a sizeable SA audience.”

He added the company is now focused on expanding content access to the cost-conscious average South African.

“We believe this is the biggest segment of the market. We want to play a big role in that segment and grow the market share. For example, when someone is commuting on a bus, we want them to be able to watch our content.”

Local is lekker

Viu debuted its local content offerings in South Africa with uBettina Wethu, the local version of Ugly Betty. It also forged strategic alliances with broadcasters SABC and eTV, to deliver locally-produced content.

“We also have partnerships with telcos so that the consumers have lesser concerns about data costs. We have been working with the likes of Vodacom and MTN on this,” D’Silva noted.

With these partnerships, viewers can purchase the Viu subscription through the telcos, he pointed out. The other option is to buy the Viu service via the telcos, and the consumer will get 3GB of free data.

The company also does promotions with the telcos, whereby if users purchase a certain product from the operators, they will be rewarded with a Viu subscription.

Although there is fierce competition in the local streaming market, D’Silva believes there is still an opportunity and room to grow.

“The way we see competition is that it’s good to have a certain level of competition. It keeps everyone on their toes; it helps grow the ecosystem because what we want is more people to watch more and spend more. Many people are subscribing to more than one platform.

“We are here for the long run; we have been here for more than three-and-a-half years, so we have to commit to the market by committing more resources.”