SABC to launch its video streaming service by March 2022

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  • The South African public broadcaster plans to launch its video streaming service before 31 March 2022.
  • The streaming service will be modelled after the BBC's iPlayer, where viewers are able to watch all of the BBC's TV channels online.
  • Ian Plaatjes, SABC chief operating officer (COO), said: "Our strategy is to have a multi-OTT presence, and we are not going to be competing with others."

The South African public broadcaster plans to launch its own SABC video streaming service to the public, modelled after the BBC's iPlayer, before the end of its current financial year.

Bongumusa Makhathini, the SABC board chairperson, told the Media & Society programme on SABC News (DStv 404) that the public broadcaster plans to have its own video streaming service up and running in South Africa before the end of its current financial year, which is 31 March 2022.

The SABC is late out of the gate with a video streaming service and, when it launches, will have been pipped to the post by the country's commercial free-to-air broadcaster e.tv that launched its eVOD service earlier this month.

Then there is also the flurry of other subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) and freemium streaming services in South Africa like AcornTV, BritBox SA, Netflix SA, Amazon Prime Video, MultiChoice's Showmax, Apple TV+, TelkomONE, VIU, DEOD, Marquee TV, PrideTV, CineMagic and Vodacom Video Play that have all been gobbling up available video consumers and building their user bases.

We have underinvested on technology and content. The board has approved a digital strategy that will see an over-the-top (OTT) platform of the SABC being launched.
-- Bongumusa Makhathini, SABC board chairperson

"There's going to be a tender - management is dealing with it - I'm sure before the end of this current financial year there's going to be an OTT platform that will allow us to monetise and commercialise all the content that we have because currently, we are relying on other platforms."

He said that the SABC wants to make more commercial deals "like the one we have with TelkomONE, like the deal we have with Openview, to get more channels so that we can truly become a multi-platform, multi-channel organisation that is able to survive and thrive within the digital world".

MultiChoice DStv currently carries various permutations of the SABC's linear TV and radio channels, StarTimes' StarSat and eMedia's Openview, with different collections of linear SABC TV channels streaming and SABC on-demand content available on the streaming services of TelkomONE and VIU, as well as YouTube.

How does BBC iPlayer work?

Over the past decade and a half, the SABC's once lofty plans for an iPlayer-like streaming service and 18 digital terrestrial television (DTT) channels all fell by the wayside, marred by the exit of its highly-skilled IT executives, mismanagement, wayward top-management and board appointments - as well as maladministration of funds and corruption that brought the SABC to the edge of another financial cliff.

The SABC is 13 years and counting behind the BBC that officially launched its own BBC iPlayer in December 2007. The SABC launched its SABC News app in April 2019.

In the same year, 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.

How the BBC's iPlayer works is that BBC viewers are able to watch all of the BBC's TV channels online, with nearly all of its programmes available to watch shortly after they've been broadcast for a set amount of time. The iPlayer also curates shows from the BBC archives and offer live events and online exclusives.

Ian Plaatjes, SABC chief operating officer (COO), told Channel24 about the SABC's video streamer plans: "Our strategy is to have a multi-OTT presence, and we are not going to be competing with others.

"We are going to be launching our own, and it will be during this financial year. We will be going to market pretty soon with our own, but it will be complementary to the other OTT providers as well."

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