DStv vs Vidi: let’s get the facts straight

In a press statement issued on Tuesday, 16 September 2014, the International Data Corporation (IDC) weighed in on the launch of South Africa’s first (legal) subscription streaming video service, Vidi.

IDC analysts argued that Vidi’s launch has finally opened up competition in South Africa’s pay-TV market, but warned that Vidi’s first-mover advantage won’t last long.

However, while they (and we) refer to Vidi as the “first mover” when it comes to its class of video on-demand (VOD) services, it is not actually South Africa’s first subscription streaming service.

Before nitpicking and highlighting some of the bigger flaws in the IDC’s statement, it is important to first define some common language for referring to VOD products:

  • Subscription VOD (SVOD): Watch from a collection of videos for a monthly subscription (i.e. the “Netflix model”). Usually movies and seasons of television shows that have already been released on DVD.
  • Transactional VOD (TVOD): On-demand video rentals, charged per rental. Typically movies that have just come off circuit.
  • Catch up: Watch just-aired movies and episodes of series online. Usually bundled with a broadcast TV subscription of some kind.

Long before Vidi launched in South Africa, Wabona was streaming older South African television shows through its website. At launch, it offered the shows on a TVOD basis, but it later started offering an SVOD service for $5.99 per month.

That said, Vidi may be considered a “first-mover” due to its much larger initial content library, and the fact that it is both an SVOD and TVOD service.

Vidi offers TV shows and older movies for a subscription fee of R149 per month, while newer movies can be rented for between R15 and R27, depending on how recent a release it is.

DStv’s existing VOD services misunderstood

DStv Catch Up interface on Explora decoder
DStv Catch Up interface on Explora decoder

The IDC then goes on to compare Vidi’s offering to what DStv currently has in the market, but gets a number of details wrong.

DStv currently offers online VOD to DStv premium subscribers on multiple devices, but the DSTV premium subscription of ZAR 665 per month is considered to be too expensive by many South Africans.

It will be interesting to see if DStv will move to protect the online VOD segment by opening the service to all its subscribers.

While it will be interesting to see what MultiChoice’s response is going to be to the arrival of legitimate VOD contenders such as Vidi, in summarising DStv’s offering the IDC glossed over a number of important details.

Firstly, MultiChoice’s VOD offering is not limited to only DStv Premium subscribers.

South Africa’s dominant pay-TV player actually offers a number of different types of online video services, including:

  1. Live streaming: of events such as sports matches and the Oscar Pistorius trial. SuperSport streaming limited to DStv Premium; Oscar trial streaming available to DStv Compact, Extra, and Premium.
  2. Catch up: newly aired movies and the latest episodes of TV shows are available for online streaming to DStv Premium subscribers only.
  3. BoxOffice (via PVR): rent movies via your decoder, no Internet connection required. Available to DStv Compact, Extra, and Premium subscribers.
  4. BoxOffice Online: rent movies online and stream them. Available to anyone in South Africa with an Internet connection.
DStv BoxOffice for Android screenshots
DStv BoxOffice for Android screenshots

MultiChoice’s VOD services include DStv Catch Up, the PVR-based BoxOffice movie rental service, and BoxOffice Online.

These VOD services are also not all restricted to DStv subscribers. BoxOffice Online is open to non-subscribers, though it offers subscribers discounted rates by bringing online rental prices in-line with those on PVR.

BoxOffice (both PVR and online) is a straight-up TVOD service, but another nuance not mentioned by the IDC is that Catch Up is not an SVOD service that MultiChoice can simply spin off into a stand-alone offering.

While Catch Up does have older movies on offer, it also has just-aired episodes from new seasons of TV shows — something a normal SVOD service can’t currently offer.

The last point of contention is that the R665 price quoted by the IDC is inaccurate, as it only reflects the monthly subscription fee for DStv Premium.

Not only is DStv BoxOffice more widely available, subscribers must first pay a PVR Access Fee of R75 per month to access DStv’s Catch Up or the PVR-based BoxOffice service.

Comparing these prices directly to Vidi’s subscription fee is also problematic as a DStv subscription includes access to the pay-TV platform’s linear broadcast services in addition to VOD.

The table below summarises the different VOD services on offer from MultiChoice, on which bouquets they are available, and what those packages cost.

DStv VOD Non-subscriber DStv Compact DStv Extra DStv Premium
Subscription R0 R295 R399 R665
PVR Access N/A R75 R75 R75
Total monthly fee R0 R370 R474 R740
Catch Up No No No Yes
BoxOffice (PVR) No Yes (TVOD) Yes (TVOD) Yes (TVOD)
BoxOffice (Online) Yes (TVOD) Yes (TVOD, Discount) Yes (TVOD, Discount) Yes (TVOD, Discount)

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DStv vs Vidi: let’s get the facts straight