SA viewers show appetite for VOD services with local content

Read time 5min 40sec
Viu Africa country manager Ryan Solovei.
Viu Africa country manager Ryan Solovei.

South African audiences are turning to Viu, the over-the-top video (OTT) streaming provider, to catch up on the latest episodes of their favourite locally-produced dramas and soapies.

So says Viu Africa country manager Ryan Solovei, adding that nostalgic TV shows of the late 1990s to early 2000s are also popular among local viewers.

Hong Kong-based Viu, a Showmax equivalent, officially launched its “freemium” video-on-demand service in SA in March last year. While Showmax showcases DStv content, Viu has the exclusive digital rights to South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and Etv shows.

The service is accessible via a range of smart devices with an Internet connection. This includes mobile phones and tablets via iOS and Android apps, laptop and desktop computers using Web browsers.

Solovei states: “Viu South Africa is largely about local. We have a passion for and take great pride in offering highly relevant, representative content and premium hit shows for our South African audience.

“Our proposition to the market is that our model caters to the historically side-lined audience when it comes to OTT video entertainment. This model caters for South Africans through our content offering, the ability to choose the streaming quality in order to save data, and the free daily dramas.

“Our licensing agreements with Etv and SABC have allowed us to show top-performing library titles from each broadcaster. Some of the more popular showsamong Viu’s customer base are SABC’s Uzalo, Generations, Muvhango, 7de Laan and Skeem Saam; Etv’s Rhythm City, Scandal and Imbewu: The Seed – all of which are available on-demand exclusively on Viu.

“The more classic hit shows from the two broadcasters are also popular. These are shows that are no longer available on linear TV but can be found on Viu, and include Yizo Yizo and Gaz’lam from our SABC showcase; and Matatiele and Gold Diggers from our Etv showcase, to name just a few.”

Although he won’t disclose Viu’s local customer base, Solovei points out the video-on-demand service has more than 41 million monthly active users globally.

Premium partnership

For payments for its premium content, Viu SA has teamed up with MTN SA to offer MTN direct carrier billing on its app for Viu Premium payments.

This means Viu customers will be able to pay for their premium subscription directly through their MTN mobile bill or airtime.

Price points for Viu Premium start at R5 a day with a one-day free trial, R20 a week with a one-day free trial, two monthly options that each come with a seven-day free trial: R29 with ads, and R69 ad-free. All price options have download functionality to allow customers to download and watch content later.

“Typically, streaming services have been pitted against linear television,” Solovei notes. “The relationship we have with SABC and Etv allows Viu to cater for the mainstream segment of viewers that have missed their favourite shows on linear TV. Viu has, essentially, provided a catch-up on-demand service for South Africa’s biggest shows.

“One of our objectives is to have key partnerships that engage South Africa’s mobile-centric customer. It’s also about creating the most accessible entertainment platform through price, content and convenient payments.

“The partnership with MTN is a significant one for us because it underscores our commitment to introduce digital and payment innovations that empower customers to use our service, engage with it easily, and make it as seamless as possible to get to their favourite content.

“The ability for customers to use their airtime to pay for Viu Premium speaks to how together with MTN, we are committed to expand video services access to as many South Africans as possible.”

Support local

Meanwhile, SA’s “first end-to-end live streaming platform” has launched to support the creative industry, which is among the sectors that have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Dubbed Send it, the free-to-use online video streaming platform allows users to create a unique Web page and schedule live video streaming events.

This includes events such as cooking classes, concerts or online theatre, which can be offered to audiences for free or at a cost.

“Human interaction and connection have had to change. Technology, together with social distancing, has transformed the nature of events and the way we gather together. That doesn't mean we shouldn't still interact with one another,” states James Coetzee, co-founder of Send it.

“We need one another now more than ever. South Africans are known for their tenacity and kindness. We want to help support content creators by offering a one-stop-shop technological tool which reaches audiences and provides the option to generate an income through pay-to-view live broadcasts. Any creator is welcome, from musicians and comedians, to fitness instructors and event management co-ordinators.”

Brandon Muller, co-founder of Send it, adds: “We want to help creators generate income during these uncertain times. We're aware of the devastating financial impact that COVID-19 has had on many industries, particularly those in events.”

For pay-to-view broadcasts, a 5% fee on all ticket purchases made by attendees is charged by the platform to cover credit card processing fees. Send it also allows viewers to engage with the host via live chat.

“There are a few other similar platforms out there, but none are South African, and most are either quite costly to set up or are very complicated – often both,” says Muller.

Send it has also built an enterprise solution which allows the delivery of zero-rated, reverse-billed live or on-demand video content to consumers. "This means that corporate enterprises can cover the cost of their end-users' mobile data to access the content," explains Muller. "It helps companies give their consumers free access to events or other brand activations via live video-conferencing, streaming and even video-on-demand. The possibilities are endless. We'll be launching a conferencing solution to this offering soon too," adds Coetzee.

For more information and to set up your own Send it event page, click here or e-mail and follow the platform on Instagram.

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