Modern-day digital DVD store bypasses Netflix, Showmax

Read time 5min 30sec
Stanley Edwards, chief operating officer of OGLE Media.
Stanley Edwards, chief operating officer of OGLE Media.

There is a new player in the South African video-on-demand market that is tackling the space in a different way to players like Netflix and Showmax.

OGLE considers itself a "modern-day digital DVD store for Africa". The service allows smartphone users to download content directly to their device without needing an Internet connection and without incurring any data charges.

Stanley Edwards, chief operating officer of OGLE Media, told ITWeb that OGLE is not an over-the-top (OTT) or streaming service. Rather, it is a content platform and users can only access the content at specific hotspots located at malls, retailers and fast food outlets.

"We address the issue of data poverty and data price discrimination by totally removing the data cost.

"We're not targeting a Netflix or Showmax customer or trying to get them to convert to OGLE, so the content we offer would be different. If I have to define a customer, it would be a typical Etv viewer; so mass market in content and price," Edwards explains.

Not the usual

Edwards believes OTT and video streaming services will struggle to truly scale in Africa due to poor connectivity and high data costs.

"We've solved this with OGLE, which also offers malls, brands and retailers with the opportunity to offer content as an incentive and reward for purchase and loyalty."

A customer downloads the OGLE app, finds an OGLE download hotspot via the app, connects to the hotspot via WiFi, and then browses and downloads content directly to their smartphone.

The content is physically on the hard drive at the hotspot so the transfer is fast and does not require any mobile data usage. Content is rented for 48 hours and if not re-rented, is automatically deleted from their smartphone.

"OGLE doesn't offer WiFi in the traditional sense. We just use WiFi as a transfer mechanism to get the content onto a customer's smartphone," notes Edwards.

"We can allow customers to download using their own data but we're not offering this at the moment as our model is to drive people back to malls, retailers, fast food outlets, etc."

Explaining the name, he defines 'ogle' as "looking at something with desire and wanting it".

"Anyone with a smartphone wants content but many don't have a regular Internet connection and are sensitive to data costs, so can only 'OGLE' at Netflix or Showmax. We provide a solution for them."

Edwards actually started OGLE about six years ago with a different focus in mind: delivering free education content to learners. However, it has now evolved into a content distributor for a wider range of topics.

Besides movies and TV series, OGLE will also distribute free education, sport, entrepreneur and healthcare content.

Data poverty

He says OGLE is a self-funded start-up and is looking at servicing an under-serviced market rather than trying to disrupt the OTT market which is over-traded.

"It seems like every month a few new OTT services launch in Africa but they're all chasing the same premium customer: someone who has a good Internet connection and is not sensitive to data costs. It's like the craft gin market; there's only so many gin drinkers out there," Edwards says.

"We've all heard the cry for data costs to fall but in reality, it's not going to happen soon, especially for the lower end of the market who pay a premium for data. Vodacom has just released its results and data revenue was down. Shareholders were unhappy and their share price dropped, so I really can't see them dropping data costs anytime soon."

Edwards says OGLE may be the new kid on the block but it plans to roll out across Africa.

"We launched at the beginning of December and have been running a proof-of-concept in selected locations in Cape Town, including a mall, Internet caf'e, spaza shop, coffee shop, day clinic and we've even put one in a taxi.

"Now that the Christmas rush is over, we're engaging with a number of malls, retailers and fast food outlets, and will be running pilots with them over the next few months."

Edwards says there is also a business case for the mall or retail outlets to want to host OGLE's hotspots.

"OGLE provides an innovative and new way to incentivise purchase, increase foot traffic and dwell time, and drive revenue but not burden the customer with the data costs."

Because users need to download content at malls to avoid data costs, it encourages return visits. Malls and retailers can also sell OGLE content vouchers as an additional revenue stream.

"Our target market is the typical pay-as-you-go customer who would not want to enter into a contact for an OTT service or a data contract."

Content and cost

OGLE also has a different strategy when it comes to the content it offers.

"As you know, content is key and can be very expensive. Netflix just paid $100 million to get Friends for another 12 months. We've signed deals with various studios and distributors, and are in discussions and negotiations with various others," he adds.

The OGLE offering draws content from JustFlicks (40 movie titles with 80 more coming in the next two months); Classic Cinema (monthly subscription of R10/month for unlimited classic movies); F2 Freestylers (sport short clips); Coerver (sport short clips); Watch Mojo (short clips); World Swimsuit (beauty short clips); Be Your Best (beauty short clips); Videogyan (cartoon short clips); Auto Express (motoring short clips); Entrepreneurs' Organization (education short clips); and iLearn (education short clips).

Content pricing starts at R1 for short clips and R2-R5 for movies. More premium movies in the future would be around R25-R35, depending on how new they are.

He says in future, the company wants to also offer audio books, podcasts, e-publications and virtual reality content.

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