The steady stream of international VoD arrivals continues (see Viacom's Play Plex announcement below) but none of this phases Africa's new breed of VoD start-ups. They are focusing on delivering local content and staying close to their local audiences, something which the internationals will find harder to do. Russell Southwood spoke to Tanzanian start-up founder Victor Joseph of Tango TV whose content plus set-top box service goes into test mode at the end of this month.
The idea for Tango TV came about when Victor Joseph was at College:"I noticed how difficult it was to distribute Tanzanian movies. Piracy was a very big problem and I thought streaming could be made to work like Spotify and other streaming services."
He understood early on that not everyone wants to watch movies on their computer, tablet or smartphone: many are much more comfortable in the "sitting back" mode with television. So he sourced a set-top box with an Internet connection that could use Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G services. It can be connected using HDMI cables or regular AV cables. He says that it's easy-to-use and has its own remote control. It can be used for browsing or for streaming.
It will cost US$50, a price that is at the lower end of the price range for this kind of set-top box. However, the price will reduce once larger volumes are being sold.
So what content will the user have access to? The box can obviously connect you to You Tube which is very popular based in Tanzania based on the Alexa.com rankings.
But it will also have pay-for, premium content in the form of local Tanzanian movies:"We're going to test this first. We don't have enough money to licence. We're just another distributor. We plan to start with local content and later get content from other African countries." He plans to test selling premium movies at TS3,000, which is about US$1.50.
At this point in the conversation, I'd usually start thinking "Oh, yes, another hopeless wannabee with a dream and no capital." But the Tanzanian DVD market is in complete decline through a combination of piracy and streaming. The type of films that used to sell hundreds of thousands of copies are now more likely to sell in the thousands. This commercial pressure is likely to persuade film producers and directors to try new local platforms where piracy may be less of a factor.
So how big does Joseph think the market will be?:"It's a big market. There are free (local) movies on You Tube that are getting 500,000 views and these are the sort of people who access on mobile phones and laptops. But the biggest market will be those who want to stream directly to their TV. It's easier for people to understand. It's a box that delivers movies".
It believes that in 12 months time it will have 10,000 users. In running the test over 5 days, it was getting 20 pre-orders a day. It has now closed access to the test phase which will start with this pool of users at the end of the month.
Tango TV was launched as part of a Buni Hub programme and it got some funding to do a prototype of the box and the space to do some research and testing. It's going to Demo Africa to try and raise funding from venture capital companies.
These kinds of very local VoD start-ups have a short window in which they can establish themselves whilst the international companies are more focused on getting sales for their international catalogue across multiple markets. There's a parallel in the African music platform market where local platforms are saying to artists and labels, we can sell more than iTunes. If they can deliver on that promise, local VoD platforms will have a healthier future than might otherwise be the case.