Wednesday, January 6, 2016

BREAKING. Netflix launches in South Africa and 129 other countries and territories at $8 or R126 per month.

As expected, the global video streaming giant Netflix announced on Wednesday evening South African time that its launching and also instantly becoming available in South Africa, as well as 129 other countries and territories worldwide, costing South African subscribers $7,99 (R126) per month for use on a single screen.

Besides South Africa Netflix has instantly become available across the entire African continent.

As was expected, Netflix made the announcement through co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings at the annual Consumer Electronics Show 2016 (CES 2016) in Las Vegas in the United States.

Netflix didn't respond to a media enquiry I made yesterday asking about its impending launch in South Africa.

Besides becoming accessible in South Africa, Netflix is launching in 129 other countries, including India, Nigeria, Turkey, Singapore, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Netflix in 2015 said its goal was to be in 200 countries by the end of 2016 - the addition of another 130 to the existing 60 brings it to 190 countries as of today.

Netflix is not yet in China, one of the biggest and fastest growing consumer markets, and is also barred by American law from entering North Korea, Syria and the Crimea.

"Today you are witnessing the birth of a new global internet TV network," says Reed Hastings in a statement.

"In 2016, the company plans to release 31 new and returning original series, two dozen original feature films and documentaries, a wide range of stand-up comedy specials and 30 original kids series - available at the same time to members everywhere."

"From today onwards, we will listen and we will learn, gradually adding more languages, more content and more ways for people to engage with Netflix. We're looking forward to bringing great stories from all over the world to people all over the world," says Reed Hastings in the statement.

Netflix at is instantly competition for Naspers' ShowMax, the struggling VIDI from the Times Media Group, China's PCCW Global's, MTN's relaunched VU and in a sense also MultiChoice's satellite pay-TV platform DStv.

While Netflix content can only be streamed, ShowMax on phones and tablets but not computers and allows subscribers to download content within South Africa to watch offline.

Netflix in South Africa will also have to contend with the same inhibiting factors negatively impacting all the other video-on demand (VoD) services and impeding its uptake: prohibitively expensive internet broadband costs, slow internet speeds, and slow growth in broadband penetration.

In an email to South Africans, the video streaming giant said "Netflix is now available in South Africa" and invited people to make use of a free month's access.

"Now you can enjoy TV shows and movies on your TV, computer, phone and tablet," said Netflix.

Netflix is giving a trial use of one month to test the service. South African and African users will still have to provide a valid credit card, and will get an email 3 days before your month long trial period ends, as a reminder that your credit card is going to be billed.

To use Netflix on two screens will cost $9,99 per month (R158) while an ultra-HD premium Netflix service cost $11,99 per month (R190) giving access to up to 4 screens.

The minimum required connection speed is 0.5 megabits per second, but Netflix says subscribers may want a faster connection for improved video quality.

Subscribers can watch Netflix on a laptop, computer, phone or tablet, or anything else that offers the Netflix app, from gaming consoles like Wii, Xbox or PS3, DVD or Blu-ray players, HDTV TV sets, set-top boxes or home theater systems.

The major expansion announcement was expected since Netflix previously announced a massive increase in content cost to produce new shows 600 original hours in 2016 at a cost of $5 billion - money that has to come from somewhere.

Netflix is already producing more television that traditional broadcasters like CBS and FOX in America.

In the past few days Netflix's stock price tumbled as investors worried about Netflix's ability to keep generating profits due to limited growth in the United States while Netflix announced a bold and massive increase in content generation.

It became obvious that Netflix is eyeing massive global expansion at the same time to focus on generating money from international subscriptions in all the foreign markets it can.

Netflix has 66.02 million paying subscribers in the United States and 23.95 million in the rest of the world.

"We live in an on demand world, and there's no going back," said Reed Hastings who delivered the keynote address at CES 2016, during which the global Netflix expansion announcement was made.

"In the first 6 months after we launched in Australia and incumbent broadcasters created competing subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) services, BitTorrent usage dropped by 14%," said Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer at the keynote address, speaking after Reed Hastings.