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Mobile operators seek to lower the high data price barrier by bundling data and content – buy a streamed TV series or film for one price

Two of Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest mobile operators – MTN and Vodacom – are now marketing bundled content with data at a single price. Russell Southwood looks at how the mobile VoD market is changing.

This week Vodacom introduced what it’s calling Video Time bundles on its on demand streaming service Video Play. They are designed to take “the guesswork out of data usage when streaming video over a mobile network. For the first time ever, customers no longer have to try and guess how much data they need to watch a movie or their favorite series”.

If the user wants to stream a movie that is an hour and twenty minutes (1hr20min) long, they simply go to the Video Play app and buy that specific Video Play Time bundle (1h20min) and start streaming their movie without depleting their normal data bundle.

Video Play Time can be used to access unlimited series of health and fitness documentaries, news, gospel, Hollywood and South African movies, among many other interesting things to watch. Blockbuster movies, including Bad Boys For Life, Interstellar and BlacKkKlansman are available on Video Play, along with binge-worthy series such Black-ish, The Fixer and The Bold and the Beautiful.

According to Zubair Munshi, Executive Head of Video Commercial at Vodacom:”Vodacom is more than just a telco. Our strategy is to expand our digital content platforms and strive to become a leading go-to brand for all things entertainment. With Time Bundles and Video Play’s flexible subscription model, customers are not tied down to long-term contracts and can watch what they want and when they want to.”

In April 2020 when I spoke to Munshi, Vodacom Video Play had 800,000 active subscribers (2 million registered users) in seven months and was expamding into Lesotho, Tanzania, Mozambique and DRC. According to Vodacom’s 2019/2020 annual report there were 3.5 million Video Play purchases in South Africa. The company also runs a music streaming service called MyMuze (30 million songs sold, app downloaded 1.9 million times) and a game streaming service called PlayInc (883,000 subscribers).

MTN has done something very similar and has what it calls Streaming Packs. This sells certain kinds of content by time. For example, there are streaming packs for YouTube and StarTimes content and you can buy 60 minutes at a time. In Cameroon the video streaming pack is for a service branded as Yabadoo and is more like Vodacom’s Video Time bundling. The prices for content are: TV channels, FCFA100 (US18 cents); feature films, FCFA350 (US63 cents); and TV series, FCFA500 (US$90 cents).

MTN has just launched the US music streaming platform Tidal across its all of its country opcos. Tidal was first launched in Uganda in 2018 so it’s taken a while to reach this position. It also has its own music service Music Time which is available in 6 of its operating countries. To round off its digital offer, it has its own social media platform Ayoba, currently with 2 million active users. It’s not going blow down Facebook’s walls of Jericho but I guess you could present as a respectable start.

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