Friday, October 25, 2019

SABC plans its own 'freemium' iPlayer streaming service that will require a valid SABC TV Licence number.

The SABC has been envisioning and is working to create a pay-wall streaming service similar to the BBC's BBC iPlayer, with the plan to make content accessed through it available with a valid SABC TV Licence number as part of a "freemium" approach.

While all of the South African public broadcaster's TV and radio services will remain free and freely accessible, the SABC has started work on creating a separate streaming platform as well - one that it will own, running it as a freemium model.

Through access control that will most likely be in the form of a TV licence number, users will be able to access content that will include episodes of both current and in-production shows, as well as library programming from the SABC archives.

For news the SABC currently provides its free-to-use SABC News app that it recently launched, digitally streaming its SABC News (DStv 404) TV channel as well as its radio stations and text news articles.

For its TV content catch-up approach, the SABC uploads episodes of some shows to YouTube where it doesn't own the platform and can't manage the user experience.

The SABC has also licensed some shows to the video-on-demand (VOD) service of VIU South African, operated by PCCW Media and Vuclip, where the broadcaster likewise doesn't own the platform with no control over the user-interaction.

The SABC's confusing bifocal approach of using different platforms for various content has been confusing viewers in their content discovery process, who struggle and don't know whether a show will be on YouTube or VIU, or where to find it.

Some licensing deals for content like SABC1's Skeem Saam already lapsed and are no longer carried by VIU despite the broadcaster being offered millions of rand for it in a contract extension.

The SABC board and executives in presentations in parliament, recently revealed that the broadcaster is working on establishing its own digital streaming "paywall" service of sorts.

The SABC is 11 years and counting behind the BBC that officially launched its own BBC iPlayer in December 2007 with the SABC that is finally gearing up to push out its own digital player version.

There's as yet no date for when the SABC plans to launch either a beta testing or an official version of its streaming service, or what it might be called but the SABC told parliament that it's looking at implementing a so-called "freemium" model - where basic access is free with a tiered pay-to-watch system for additional premium content.

On Tuesday in his speech at the MMA Media Freedom Week, Madoda Mxakwe, SABC CEO, said that "the SABC does not intend to leave streaming TV services to our competitors".

"The SABC has developed an integrated over-the-top (OTT) strategy with the goal that the SABC develops or acquires its own OTT streaming platform as a medium-term goal. This will allow the SABC to control its own destiny into the future. Previous funding challenges and an inquorate board
for over 5 months this year has slowed us down but not stopped our OTT plans."

Owning the player
When the SABC's streaming service eventually launches, it will compete with a growing collection of existing (S)VOD services in South Africa ranging from MultiChoice's Showmax, Netflix South Africa, and Amazon Prime Video, to Vodacom Video Play, DEOD, VIU, Acorn TV and Cell C's struggling Cell C black.

The benefits of its own "SABC iPlayer" for the SABC will be multiple.

Leveraging the use of a valid SABC TV licence as login will help with compliance - some more people will likely pay their SABC TV Licence fees and keep it up to date in order to access the digital on-demand streaming service.

When the SABC owns the platform as well as the content it will also get access to extremely valuable consumer data and more precise user analytics. The broadcaster currently has no idea which or how many SABC TV licence payers are viewing which of its content digitally, on what platforms, or when.

Thirdly, the SABC will be able to customise the user-experience and interface and directly improve it based on feedback, and fourthly get the entire revenue stream of possible advertising where it now only gets a share from YouTube ads.

Lastly, the SABC on its own platform will be able to improve digital rights management (DRM) and protect its content better to prevent illegal copying and downloading which is currently taking place with its content it puts on YouTube.

Losing viewers to online rivals
The SABC is working on its streaming service plan as the British broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, warned that the BBC is facing extinction if it doesn't do more to lure back viewers - especially new younger viewers from streaming services like Netflix and YouTube.

Ringing true for the SABC as well where only a fifth of South African TV households are still bothering to pay their SABC TV Licence fee, Ofcom said in its report that the "BBC is vulnerable to a rapidly changing media landscape and it must do much more to connect with children and young adults, or it could lose a generation of potential licence-fee payers".

In its 57-page report about the BBC that has warnings applicable to the SABC as well, Ofcom found that the BBC might become an unsustainable public broadcasting service if viewers and especially new younger viewers continue to flock to online rivals.

"With increased choice and strong competition in the market, there is a clear risk that as children and young people age, they do not come to engage with the BBC as previous generations once did."

"If people don’t consider the BBC as a core part of their viewing, then it may be hard to encourage them to pay the licence fee in years to come which will have significant implications for the BBC's revenue."

Ofcom said that "The BBC needs to work harder to reach young people through making content that appeals to them, making it easier for young people to find that content, and ensuring that it is readily available where they want it."