Sama awards go digital with new app

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It's important to engage end-users in their "language" of the future, says Sama's Refiloe Ramogase.
It's important to engage end-users in their "language" of the future, says Sama's Refiloe Ramogase.

Television viewers will have a chance to catch the virtual reality experience of the 22nd instalment of the South African Music Awards (Sama) via live video streaming via the new Sama mobile app.

The app, which was recently unveiled at the Sama nominations event in Soweto, will provide fans with a first-hand, 360 degree video viewing of the awards ceremony by connecting with virtual reality (VR) headsets.

Refiloe Ramogase, CEO of the Sama awards, which are organised by the Recording Industry of SA, says the future is technology-focused and innovation-driven, and the smartphone is one of the viable tools through which that innovation can be achieved.

"We need to be well positioned in a digitalised universe, by utilising the right channels of communication with our target market and engage them in their 'language' of the future.

"People are not always going onto the Web to search for information therefore we must come to them through innovative ways and provide that information," he continues.

He adds the app, accessed through Android and iOS, will provide all information related to the Sama awards. Fans will have an opportunity to vote for their favourite musicians who made it into the different categories of nominees and read the artists bios.

"The app also connects to a Google maps application, providing directions to both the Sama awards event and the location of the Sama pre-party.

"We will also be streaming the live event and behind the scenes portions of the show , even those who do not have VR headsets will still experience the 360-degree viewing, provided they have a good network connection such as 3G , LTE or WiFi," he notes.

He says this is not the first time the Sama awards have introduced an app. Their first attempt was in 2013, but it failed to attract users as data was more expensive and smartphone use was not as popular as it is today.

"In 2016 there is a wider adoption of Internet use in SA and many more WiFi hotspots. People are more tech savvy and this is reflected in the good reception of the app so far.

"As a result we are discussing content strategies on the direction to take once the awards are over. We aim to continue engaging and interacting with people over a 12-month period," he explains.

Mervyn Naidoo, CEO of Appme, the company that created the app, says live streaming the event assists in reaching the mass market while providing them with a better picture quality than television.

"We are pushing boundaries through the live streaming service; viewers watching through their smartphones have an option to use virtual headsets or google glasses which will provide a front-row seat experience as they will be immersed into a close -up view of the stage on the event night," he points out.

Naidoo adds viewers will be able to move around with the smartphone in their hands and get an up-close 360-degree viewing of the artists and the audience on the big night.

Explaining the technical details, Naidoo says the live stream will come from a feed which will source the TV footage through a third-party server.

"Our back-end streaming partner is a company called S-stream. We use Java and iOS coding to tap into the server which will be connected to the SABC content on the night of the awards," he elaborates.

The awards ceremony will be held on Saturday, 4 June 2016, at the ICC in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. It will be broadcast live on SABC1. To vote for nominees, visit the Sama Web site.

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