e.tv and VIU head to court over streaming rights for Scandal! and Imbewu

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A scene in Scandal!
A scene in Scandal!
Photo: e.tv/Facebook
  • e.tv and VIU are heading to court over an alleged breach of a R38 million content licensing contract for streaming.
  • VIU demands that eMedia stop streaming e.tv's soaps Scandal! and Imbewu on its newly launched video-streaming service eVOD.
  • e.tv told Channel24 that it stopped funnelling content to VIU due to piracy concerns.

e.tv and VIU are squaring off in court today with the free-to-air commercial broadcaster and the foreign video streaming service operating in South Africa that are fighting over piracy claims that led to an alleged breach of the R38 million content licensing contract for streaming.

VIU, an over-the-top (OTT) streaming service, trading as PWWC Vuclip PTE Ltd, applied for an urgent court interdict in the Johannesburg High Court in a case that will be heard on Tuesday, 17 August, demanding that eMedia stops streaming e.tv's own soaps Scandal! and Imbewu on its own, just-launched video streaming service eVOD.

e.tv launched eVOD a week and a half ago, but before that licensed the streaming rights of shows like Rhythm City, Scandal! and Imbewu to VIU.

Box set episodes from season 14 of Rhythm City, season 3 and 4 of Imbewu, and seasons 18 and 19 of Scandal! are still available on VIU, but e.tv has halted sending VIU any new further episodes or any new e.tv content.

At eVOD's media launch, Channel24 asked e.tv if its content will still be available on VIU. The broadcaster said that its existing shows of which Catch Up rights had been licensed to MultiChoice's DStv Now will remain accessible on that pay-TV provider's streaming service, but that e.tv's content is no longer available on VIU and is being moved to eVOD.

"As our contractual obligations ride themselves out, we're consolidating our content on our OTT service, which is the logical thing to do," Khalik Sherrif, eMedia Holdings CEO, said.

Sunday World reported that according to the court papers filed by VIU, the streaming service says that it acquired the exclusive streaming rights from e.tv for Scandal! and Imbewu for over R37 million on 31 December 2019 as part of a content licensing agreement that is supposed to run until 2024.

According to the terms of the contract, VIU is supposed to get the back catalogue of library episodes from the series older than a year and the latest episodes that collectively contribute to 20% or one-fifth of the overall revenue VIU makes in South Africa.

Ryan Solovei, country manager and co-founder of VIU Africa, claims that e.tv allegedly abruptly cancelled the streaming content licensing contracts with VIU, after eMedia discovered that another platform, Philosopher App, was uploading pirated copies of Scandal! and Imbewu to a type of online streaming platform called Philosopher: Stream Mzansi SA Soapies.

According to Solovei, e.tv allegedly accused VIU of colluding in the piracy of e.tv's content and cancelled the content licensing deals, damaging VIU that is allegedly suffering financial harm.

"The ineluctable conclusion is that e.tv engineered a contrived cancellation of Vuclip's licensing agreements to gain access to exclusive content, which was exclusively licensed to Vuclip, but which e.tv wished to broadcast on its own platform," the court documents state.

e.tv told Channel24 that it stopped funnelling content to VIU due to piracy concerns, that Scandal! and Imbewu is e.tv's content and confirmed that there is a case pending.

"eMedia can confirm that we are aware of the pending case and allegations made by VIU," e.tv said in response to a media enquiry.

"eMedia had a licensing agreement in place with VIU to stream the eMedia owned-programmes Scandal! and Imbewu, which it recently terminated due to piracy concerns.

"We have a responsibility to safeguard the intellectual property and integrity of our programming content, and we are acting in the best interest of all our stakeholders. Piracy threatens the livelihoods of many, and we have a duty to act against it."

Solovei didn't respond to a media enquiry at the time of publishing, and comment will be added here if received.

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