SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:
From both a national and global perspective, all industry predictions about 2019 highlighted expected growth in the video on demand (VOD), streaming and mobile viewing verticals.
It should be no surprise, then, that South Africa has recently welcomed another platform to its VOD landscape, in the form of Viu – a content streaming service and mobile app that aims to “provide premium content to the local consumer.”
Screen Africa spoke to Ryan Solovei, the country manager for Viu SA, about the background of the company, what is unique about its offering and its plans to prioritise local content.
Headquartered in Silicon Valley and with a presence in several major Asian cities such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Dubai and Jakarta, “Vuclip is a leading global technology-driven media company delivering on-demand entertainment to emerging markets including India, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. As a PCCW Media Company, Vuclip properties include Viu, Vuclip Videos, Viu Life and Vuclip Games,” explains Solovei.
Viu SA is, in fact, the 17th market in which VuClip’s Viu video streaming service has launched, amassing more than 30 million active monthly users in the process, who – last year – watched 37 billion minutes of content, according to Neo Lekgabo, chief marketing officer for Viu SA.
Solovei says that this market success in on-demand entertainment “is built on its leadership at the intersection of technology, consumer insights and media.”
“A TRUE FREEMIUM MODEL”
Asked to describe what is unique about Viu’s offering to the South African market, Solovei says: “Viu offers a true Freemium model, which is a hybrid between free and paid-for video on demand service. The free offering [comes in the form of the] app, which has the most-watched daily soapies in South Africa, including Uzalo, Skeem Saam, Scandal! and Imbewu.
“It is the first time these big titles are available on a single platform, and these popular soapies have been removed from YouTube; they are only available exclusively on Viu immediately after linear broadcast.”
This represents a major coup for the company, with a recent report by The Media magazine indicating that Uzalo reached a record-breaking 10.2 million South African television viewers in September 2018, with shows like Skeem Saam “[hitting] the six million mark.”
Solovei explains that “the free service is available indefinitely and one is not forced to upgrade to the paid offering at any point. However, we do have a Premium section, where customers can subscribe to get more premium content for R69 a month. Our Premium section includes a wider variety of both local and international content from the world’s leading film and TV industries and genres.”
As Solovei puts it, Viu’s “focus is on local content. We are about authentic South African stories and this focus on local storytelling and entertainment is what South Africa needs.”
To this end, the company has already forged some promising partnerships with local content licensers and mobile companies.
“We have licensing agreements and partnerships with both Etv and SABC, where we have licensed some of their main daily dramas. Viu has selected choice library titles, including great hits like Yizo Yizo, Harvest, Umlilo, The Docket and more.
“We also have a partnership with Vodacom which will see customers being able to use their airtime to pay for Viu Premium as Phase 1 of the relationship
Expanding on the importance of telling local stories, as well as keeping step with trends in viewing habits, Solovei explains: “Viu’s business model is based on broadening access to local content. This approach has worked for Vuclip in all the other 16 markets where the brand has been launched. Over 60% of the content on the Viu app is local. We are committed to making local content accessible and to meet the market’s growing trend of multi-screen viewing; this is precisely why we partnered with Etv and SABC, as they have the widest library of local content.”
Even more exciting for the South African film and television industry is Solovei’s announcement that “Viu is also engaging with the industry at large including production companies with plans to co-produce Viu original content.
“Viu is different to most streaming services because of its original content. Creatives find themselves in a challenging situation where money and buyers are not where they used to be because the digital era has disrupted the market. Viu has an established track record of getting premium local content off the ground. It’s perfectly positioned to be the home for Mzansi’s most loved shows,” he concludes.
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