Tag: Netflix

DStv under siege

By Rudolph Muller for MyBroadband

DStv is facing threats from international streaming services, local competitors like Openview and PremiumFree, and a Competition Commission investigation.

MultiChoice’s response to these threats will shape what DStv’s products look like in future and how subscribers will consume content on the platform.

Launched in 1995, Digital Satellite Television (DStv) has been the dominant pay-TV service in South Africa for three decades.

It faced some competition from TopTV — now called StarSat — which was launched in 2010, but it hardly made a dent in MultiChoice’s monopoly.

Now there are new competitors which MultiChoice is rightly worried about. These are not licensed pay-TV broadcasters, but rather international streaming services.

The arrival of fast and affordable broadband paved the way for South Africans to cut the cord and sign up to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming video platforms.

At a fraction of the price of DStv Premium and with a bucketload of on-demand content at up to 4K, these services offer excellent value for money.

Many people are more interested in movies and TV series than sport, and this is where streaming services shine.

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, YouTube Premium and other services have enjoyed strong adoption in South Africa.

Other heavyweights like Disney+, Hulu, and HBO Max are also expected to launch in the country in future.

Sports lovers can also subscribe to a growing number of sports streaming services, like F1TV Pro, UFC Fight Pass, Tennis TV, and WWE Network.

Local streaming services, like TelkomONE and Vodacom Video Play, provide further competition to MultiChoice’s ShowMax and DStv Now offerings.

Unveiled in November 2020, TelkomONE offers a range of free content including SABC and news channels, paid-for movies, and TV shows that primarily consist of local reality programmes.

Telkom has not released subscriber numbers yet, but said it was pleased with consistent growth in registrations and content engagement across the platform.

Vodacom Video Play is another big local player. Launched in 2015, it is targeting mobile users with movies, series, kids shows and music videos. It grew to over a million subscribers by 2019.

So significant is the threat from over-the-top (OTT) providers like Netflix, YouTube, and Disney+, that MultiChoice described it as an existential competitive threat to DStv.

MultiChoice told the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) that OTT operators are their biggest competitors and a real threat.

“Currently competition is fierce and will continue to grow rapidly and in a disruptive way,” MultiChoice said.

“We consider providers like Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, HBO Now & Peacock to be an existential competitive threat.”

DStv’s answer to streaming services encroaching on its territory is to offer Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube through its DStv Explora decoders.

MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela said it makes sense for DStv to become a one-stop-shop where you pay one bill and get access to all streaming content, including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and YouTube.

There is however a snag – a Competition Commission investigation.

Competition Commission spokesperson, Siyabulela Makunga said they are investigating MultiChoice’s deal with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

The investigation is focussed on the integration of popular international streaming services into its DStv Explora decoder, which may lessen competition.

If the outcome of this investigation is not favourable for MultiChoice, it can stop its Netflix and Amazon integration plans in its tracks.

It is not only local and international streaming services which are looking to take market share from DStv.

South Africa’s free-to-air satellite TV service platform, Openview is aggressively targeting the less affluent end of the market.

Openview has increased its investment in content from R308.7 million to R366.9 million per year to strengthen its offering.

The platform is currently offering over 18 TV and radio channels and has signed an agreement in March to add a new SABC Sport channel to the platform.

The strategy is working. Openview set-top box activations continue to grow at an average of 35,000 per month.

eMedia Holdings’ latest financial results revealed that Openserve now has 2,361,443 users, up from 1,992,844 a year ago.

It is not only Openview which is going after the South African satellite TV market.

AfricaXP expanded its free-to-air satellite TV service, PremiumFree, to millions of satellite dishes in South Africa on 1 May 2021.

PremiumFree is already offering free-to-air satellite TV services in many African countries through two Eutelsat satellites.

AfricaXP is now further extending PremiumFree’s reach through a partnership with Intelsat via its IS-20 satellite — the same satellite DStv uses which covers most of Sub-Saharan Africa.

AfricaXP CEO Craig Kelly said the capacity on Intelsat’s IS-20 satellite gives them additional coverage and direct access to over 40 million homes across this region with dishes aligned to it.

Many South African households have IS-20 aligned dishes connected to “closed” decoders that lock out other channels.

These viewers could now buy any low-cost free to air decoder and connect it to their LNB cable coming from the dish to receive the PremiumFree channels.

The current PremiumFree bouquet offers 20 English channels with a strong focus on African content.

Openview and PremiumFree compete directly competing against DStv EasyView which is priced at R29 per month.

It is not clear how MultiChoice will react to the competitive and regulatory threats, but it is likely to include improved streaming services.

The company is already offering its own streaming service, ShowMax, which was launched in August 2015.

Last year MultiChoice unveiled its new Showmax Pro offering which includes a selection of live sports.

It followed up its enhanced ShowMax Pro service with the launch of a new standalone DStv streaming service in December.

The standalone DStv streaming service allows existing and new subscribers to access content on mobile phones, tablets, gaming consoles, or smart TVs without the need for a dish or decoder.

MultiChoice is also busy developing a bundle which will combine DStv subscriptions with uncapped Internet service packages.

These interventions will help to make MultiChoice competitive, but whether it will be enough to maintain its dominance remains to be seen.

By Sarah Perez for TechCrunch

Netflix is officially launching a feature that will make it easier to find something to watch when you’re stuck browsing and unable to make a decision. The service is introducing a tool called “Play Something” to users worldwide — the final iteration that “shuffle” feature you may have already seen during Netflix’s tests over the past year. When selected, Netflix will play another show or movie it thinks you’ll like, based on your interests and prior viewing behaviour.

In other words, it won’t play random content, but will instead bring up either a movie or show you’re already watching, a series or movie on your list, an unfinished series or movie you may want to revisit, or a brand new series or film that Netflix’s personalisation algorithms suggest.

The feature has been in testing under various names and styles for some time. A year ago, the feature was called Shuffle Play, for example. During its Q4 earnings, Netflix said the shuffle feature would roll out to its worldwide users sometime in the first half of 2021, describing it as a way for users to “instantly watch a title chosen just for them.”

For today’s launch, not much has changed beyond the feature’s name and style.

The new option can be found on Netflix’s TV app underneath your profile name, on the navigation menu to the left of your screen and on the tenth row on your Netflix homepage — a location that hopes to find users after they’ve been scrolling for some time without landing on anything they want to watch.

Netflix users with screen-readers can use Text-to-Speech (TTS) to use Play Something, the company notes.

While Netflix is always testing features that make it easier for users to jump from browsing to watching, this feature in particular comes at a time when Netflix is seeing slower subscriber growth — something it’s blaming on the lighter content slate due to COVID. But the reality is that Netflix is no longer the only streamer in town. And some of the content it has shipped has been weak, as evident in the growing list of cancellations. It has also lost top titles like “The Office” to rivals as rights’ holders have pulled their content back to their own new services.

For those reasons, too, Netflix needs a way to addict its current user base to what’s available in its existing catalogue before they churn out.

The new Play Something feature is available today on Netflix on TVs, and will soon begin testing on mobile devices, starting with Android.

 

Netflix tops 200m subscribers

Source: EWN

Netflix on Tuesday topped subscriber growth expectations in the past quarter, keeping ahead of new streaming rivals competing for viewers stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The streaming television leader added some 8.5 million paid subscribers in the quarter to reach 203 million, topping 200 million despite recent price hikes, its quarterly earning update showed.

“Covid-19 has accelerated that big shift from linear to streaming entertainment,” Netflix chief financial officer Spencer Neumann said on an earnings call.

“So, the underlying long-term looks good.”

The company’s cash flow was so strong that it will no longer borrow money to pay for operations, and is considering starting to buy back shares, according to a letter to investors.

Netflix shares jumped more than 12% in after-market trades following the release.

Profits dipped to $542 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $587 million in the same period in 2019. But overall revenue in the quarter surged 21.5% to $6.6 billion.

For the full year, Netflix added a record 37 million paid memberships, according to the earnings report.

“We’re enormously grateful that in these uniquely challenging times we’ve been able to provide our members around the world with a source of escape, connection and joy while continuing to build our business,” Netflix said in a letter to investors.

Paid membership increased 23% in the final quarter of 2020 when compared with the same period a year earlier, but average revenue per membership was flat, according to the Silicon Valley-based company.

While Netflix raised rates slightly in the US late last year, the majority – some 83% – of its new subscribers were from outside North America, the earnings report indicated.

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has proposed that regulation be implemented to expand the definition of a TV licence to include services such as Netflix.

In a presentation to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications presented by Deputy Communications Minister Pinky Kekana, the public broadcaster has argued the expanded definition of a TV licence is outdated and needs to be adjusted to current realities.

The SABC said that regulation is needed which would require pay-TV service providers like MultiChoice (DStv) and video on demand providers like Netflix to collect TV licences on behalf of the SABC.

It added that this would be similar to municipalities collecting traffic fines and motor vehicle licence discs.

Kekana said during the presentation that the government’s proposal to help the SABC improve its financial position would include allowing the public broadcaster to collect licence fees from non-TV users.

“Including engaging with those who have been carrying the SABC programmes on their pay-TV, how do we through ICASA make sure that they too are able to assist us to collect TV licences?” Kekana said.

“But we are not only limiting it to TV. We also have other platforms where people consume content and in all of those areas, that is where we should look at how we are able to get SABC licence fees from those gadgets.”

This means that the SABC wants users who watch content on devices such as laptops and smartphones to also pay licence fees.

Sports rights
The SABC has also called for improved access to national sports rights – specifically, it wants access to these broadcast rights at an improved rate.

The SABC argued that national sports must be made available to it at “a very affordable price”.

Another point in the presentation to Parliament was the proposed removal of the must-carry rule for the SABC, which requires that all subscription broadcasters with more than 30 channels must carry the SABC’s three free-to-air television channels.

However, current regulations state the SABC “must offer its television programmes, at no cost,” to subscription broadcasters instead of allowing commercial negotiations between the parties.

The SABC said that it instead wants to negotiate with pay-TV providers to pay for these channels as it noted that the current regulations meant the deal was “one-sided” in favour of Multichoice.

By Thinus Ferreira for News24

South Africa’s Competition Commission has started an investigation into MultiChoice that has announced plans to add global streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video alongside its own Showmax service.

In its latest financial year results announced in mid-June, MultiChoice revealed that it plans to add Netflix and Amazon Prime Video as subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services to a new streaming app carousel that it wants to launch for DStv subscribers.

This new streaming app vertical will house separate blocks or apps, incorporating DStv Now, Showmax, Joox, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video – and in future even more global streaming services like possibly Disney+, HBO Max, Spotify and others – as MultiChoice evolves to become what in the pay-TV industry is termed a “super-aggregator” of video content.

How it will work, and already works elsewhere in the world, is that consumers can still subscribe separately and directly with these streaming services, but can also do so through their traditional pay-TV service that gives access to their rivals in win-win “frenemy” content distribution agreements.

MultiChoice wants to provide DStv subscribers who sign up for one or more of these SVOD services – for however long – the convenience of one monthly bill paid in rand and the streaming service amount(s) just showing up as an additional invoice line-item.

How MultiChoice benefits is that by offering DStv subscribers seamless access to streaming service competitors but through its interface and platform, MultiChoice gets to keep a DStv subscriber within its own eco-system. MultiChoice also gets paid a commission by a SVOD service for every subscriber who signs up to each of these services.

How the pay-TV subscriber benefits is that the tacked-on streaming service subscription, paid in local currency, is usually a bit cheaper than going direct as part of a promotion to entice them to try and use it, and because the pay-TV operator because of scale gets a “wholesale” price.

The streaming service benefits by getting additional revenue and new subscribers through leveraging the scale of the pay-TV operator and piggybacking on the more trusted local brand. It lowers what is called “product friction” – potential customers to scared to try something new or unwilling to complete a new registration and sign-up and cumbersome login process.

Traditional pay-TV operators in the United States like Comcast, in the United Kingdom like Sky, Canal+ in France and several others worldwide have already taken the leap to integrate and offer streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max and others that are actually competitors, into their existing services and making them available through their platforms and user interfaces.

MultiChoice plans to take the wrapping off its latest DStv Explora decoder next Wednesday in a media launch that it will broadcast on one of its own DStv channels, with the decoder that will likely be 4K-resolution capable.

It will likely also come with a DStv remote control that will have a dedicated Netflix or video streaming button, similar to elsewhere in the world, taking DStv subscribers directly to the streaming app carousel where DStv Now, Showmax, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and future streaming services will all appear stacked next to each other.

It’s unclear how the new Competition Commission investigation might scupper or alter MultiChoice’s showcase plans for next week.

MultiChoice was asked for comment regarding the Competition Commission investigation into MultiChoice’s SVOD expansion plans, and how the investigation will impact the Randburg-based pay-TV operator’s plans for the consumer roll-out of these rival services on its platform.

Joe Heshu, MultiChoice’s group executive for corporate affairs, told Channel24 on Wednesday in response to the media enquiry that MultiChoice is unable to comment at this stage.

Siyabulela Makunga, Competition Commission spokesperson, told Channel24 about its investigation of MultiChoice wanting to add Netflix and Amazon Prime Video that “we’re not commenting on the issue because it is still at a very sensitive stage”.

He couldn’t say when the investigation started, or when it might be finished. “It’s still very early,” he said.

We know this was a long read and your time is precious. Did you know you can now listen to articles? Subscribe to News24 for access to this exciting feature and more.

 

Source: The South African

The MultiChoice Group recently signed agreements to offer Netflix and Amazon streaming services through its next-generation Explora personal video recorder (PVR) decoder.

According to TechCentral, MultiChoice published a presentation on its website detailing its 2020 financial results and revealed that it has launched field trials of its standalone DStv Streaming product — which is expected to be launched soon — and signed the Explora deals with Netflix and Amazon.

While MultiChoice already runs its own subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming service Showmax, its latest 2019/2020 financial results revealed that subscribers to the service are at 19.5 million – which is a 5% increase from the previous year. South Africa still represents MultiChoice’s biggest and most powerful market, with 8.4 million pay-TV households, while the rest of Africa combined represents 11.1 million households. MultiChoice added that over the last financial year it has produced 3 850 additional hours of local content with its local content library that now exceeds 56 800 hours. This means local content now accounts for 40% of its total content spend.

“We have long been a content aggregator, and this is proof of our aggregator model at work – providing simplicity, choice and convenience for our customers,” says Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice CEO.

“As our industry evolves, we believe that we are well-positioned to benefit from both worlds – a large, growing pay-TV market in Africa, as well as an emerging over-the-top (OTT) opportunity, where our own OTT services and aggregation capabilities can drive success.”

According to My Broadband, MultiChoice’s annual results for the year also showed a continued decline in Premium subscribers.

MultiChoice combined Premium and Compact Plus into a single category for the purposes of showing year-over-year subscriber decline of 4% or 100 000 subscribers in the region. Growth was affected by one-off sports events in the prior year and some country-specific issues.

Over the past few years much has been said about the demise of print and the perception that the traditional printed word is no longer the force it used to be. However, it seems that we may be coming full circle as once again the written word is being used to entertain, promote and educate.

This is particularly evident when companies that are primarily focussed on visual media are opting to make use of published media. Take Netflix for example, the streaming service is using a tactic far removed from the nature of its service to make the best of its movies and TV series stand out. Netflix has announced that it will be publishing its own magazine to, called Wide, to promote their own stars and programmes ahead of the 2019 Emmy Awards. The first issue of Wide is set to launch in June this year.

“As the world of publishing is constantly evolving, we are seeing more innovative uses of the written word to encourage more reading,” says Josephine Buys, CEO at The Publisher Research Council (PRC). “These examples are by no means a once off, but rather a demonstration of the power of reading matter.”

A prime example of encouraging more reading takes place in London where tube commuters are able to read short stories, printed on eco-friendly paper and dispensed free by vending machines installed at Canary Wharf. Author of the short stories, Anthony Horowitz, notes: “What appealed to me was that I travel on the tube every single day and I see everybody buried in apps and games.” These same vending machines have also been installed in locations across France, in Hong Kong and the US.

“The written word provides a depth that is extremely difficult to replicate on other media platforms,” says Buys. “The Publisher Research Council has made great strides in conducting research that promotes the value of reading versus listening, viewing or glancing.”

Many global studies reaffirm this with statistics proving time and time again that time spent with print media is more focused. A Newsworks survey, conducted by PwC discovered that for 60% and 58% of the time spent reading newspapers and magazines respectively, readers are focussed solely on that medium, concluding that a trusted medium, that people choose to pay attention to is more important than ever. *

Insights from the South African Establishment Survey (ES) show that people who read earn more than their non-reading counterparts, across the entire spectrum of society. According to the ES only half of South Africans read newspapers and magazines monthly. However, this percentage grows the higher one moves up the SEM (Socio-Economic Measure) scale. In SEM SuperGroup (SG) 5, the top 10% of the population, 77% read. This same SG also has the highest household income, demonstrating that reading is the key to success and a better life. **

Anyone who has ever studied for an exam or test, knows that reading is the best way to learn, and that the longer one studies the more familiar one becomes with the course material. Reading media, whether newspapers, magazines or online provides a depth of information unlike any other media. The ability to put it down, pick it up and assimilate information at your own pace is all too often overlooked.

“The PRC’s online library is a rich repository of information that marketers, advertisers and media agencies can draw from,” concludes Buys.

By Tom Head for The South African

Naspers, the holding group of Africa’s biggest pay-TV organisation MultiChoice, have decided to list the business on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The move comes as traditional media outlets consider ways to stem the momentum of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

The shares will go live on the JSE on 27 February 2019. Investors will be able put their money into MultiChoice if they believe it’s a sound financial investment; something that CEO Calvo Mawela firmly believes is already true:

“With strong financials, the flexibility of an ungeared balance sheet and deep local knowledge, we hope to deliver excellent returns to shareholders over time.”

MultiChoice to receive boost in its battle with Netflix et al
But how will this make it more competitive with the likes of Netflix? Well, put quite simply, opening up a more diverse range of investment will eventually improve the worth of MultiChoice. Naspers are now narrowing a discount between its own market value and the value of its stake in Chinese tech giant Tencent, according to MoneyWeb.

By floating the shares on the JSE, an increase in net worth will allow MultiChoice to spend more money on quality programming and any potential streaming developments of their own in the future.

What is the MultiChoice share price estimated to be worth?
Meanwhile, South African Market Insights (SAMI) told us that this is perhaps the best time for Naspers to make this move. While subscriber numbers are up, their total revenue growth has limped along at a slow pace. They also estimate that MultiChoice will be worth R211 a share when they go public.

“MultiChoice has seen strong subscriber numbers grow over the last three years – up by 29.4% – while revenue over the same period only grew by 1.4%. Their trading profit margins are in decline too.”

“But looking at the number of shares MultiChoice plans on issuing, it will give the company a valuation of R94.8 billion, which will make MultiChoice the 21st largest firm listed on the JSE at around R211 a share.”

What happens next?
MC have approximately 13 million subscribers in Mzansi. No company is too big to fail, but SAMI have warned that there will be a “feeding frenzy” when the shares are first made public, as investors scramble to get a slice of the pie at the earliest opportunity. We will only get a true reading of its popularity a few months after it has listed.

Price comparison: DStv versus Netflix

Source: My Broadband

News website My Broadband has published an article indicating the price differential between online streaming service Netflix and satellite TV provider DStv.

The packages compared were the following:

  • Netflix Standard – R139 per month. This offers all content in full HD, which can be watched on two devices.
  • DStv Premium – R809 per month. This is DStv’s top package which offers all the base channels.

Other pricing elements which were taken into account are:

  • The first month of Netflix is free. One year’s cost is therefore 11 months’ subscription.
  • The DStv Premium price excludes the Access Fee of R90 per month. This provides access to PVR usage and DStv Now.

DStv versus Netflix

  • DStv Premium – R899 (Annual total: R10 788)
  • Netflix Standard – R139 (Annual total: R1 529)
  • Total Savings Annually – R9 259

Even if Internet is included, Netflix still comes out cheaper.

  • Netflix Standard + 10Mbps Fibre – R139 + R499 (Annual total: R7 517)
  • Total Savings Annually – R3 271

Netflix to release interactive TV shows

By Laura Bradley for Vanity Fair

If adding a “Skip Intro” button was controversial, it’s hard to imagine the firestorm that Netflix’s latest idea could ignite.

According to a new report, the streaming giant is making a brave new foray into interactive television—and will test the potential format on an upcoming episode of Black Mirror, which is expected to debut a new season in December.

So far, such experiments have been limited to Netflix programming aimed at its youngest viewers. Now it appears the streamer is ready to use the trick more broadly, in a bid to attract new users. But what is this new tactic, really: a fascinating new format or a cheap gimmick?

Per Bloomberg, sources familiar with the initiative say that Netflix is developing multiple specials—television and film—that put viewers in control of their narratives.

One such project is an episode of Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker’s dystopian sci-fi series that’s made a name for itself examining the dark side of technology and its influence on humanity. Per Bloomberg, several of Netflix’s children’s programs, such as Puss in Book, already feature this choose-your-own-adventure style, allowing viewers to decide a show’s narrative course at various junctures, then go back and choose differently if they wish to explore different outcomes.

The format seems, essentially, like a blend of television and video games—though Bloomberg makes clear that Netflix has no intention to venture more overtly into video-game production.

Whether this new initiative is a boon or a blight on the consumer experience remains to be seen. If executed well, it’ll introduce new sorts of storytelling opportunities, and even more engaging content. If executed poorly, the shtick could feel contrived and unnecessary—and given the continued discussion of the company’s perceived lack of quality control, it’s easy to imagine this criticism being lobbed. Still, to Netflix’s credit, starting with Black Mirror seems like a smart move: Brooker and his team seem, perhaps more than anyone, uniquely qualified to use this technology. They’re also more likely than most to make its employment narratively meaningful. After all, the series has already made a whole, horrific episode about the darker side of video games; why not take that idea to its logical conclusion?

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