New video channels for SA mobile streaming app

Tuluntulu, a content distribution platform for mobile phones developed in South Africa, has launched a number of new channels that can be streamed through its apps.

These include news channels Al Jazeera and ANN7, and local education channel Mindset Learn.

The Tuluntulu platform is built on technology developed by Keith Ferguson from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) which offers video streaming over very low bandwidth connections.

Ferguson raised money with the Technology Innovation Agency to further develop his PhD research, with the agency eventually supporting his team with R14.5-million in funding.

Researchers and engineers from the CSIR and University of Cape Town, with the assistance of East Coast Access, a BEE Internet Service Provider, refined the technology into what they call Adaptive Real-time Internet Streaming Technology (ARTIST).

In an interview with MyBroadband, Tuluntulu founder Pierre van der Hoven said that the company was established to commercialise ARTIST.

Making money by giving it away for free

But how do you commercially launch a technology aimed at low-income users?

Firstly, “it’s got to be free,” Van der Hoven said.

If you’re not charging users for the service, that leaves two ways of earning money, Van der Hoven said: charge content owners for carriage, and advertising.

This will change in 3–5 years time, according to Van der Hoven. He predicts that their business model will be all about viewer data. They will know what content a user or groups of users like, how often they watch, and how long they watch for.

Van der Hoven said that the accurate audience analytics available to online services such as streaming video gives it an advantage as it lets them provide advertisers with far more accurate data than over linear broadcasters could.

Compression trade-off

Tuluntulu Android landscape view
Tuluntulu Android landscape view

According to Van der Hoven, the high levels of compression offered by ARTIST can reduce the cost of streaming video to a smartphone over a mobile network to R4 per hour.

The trade-off is that the video is somewhat pixelated and not really suited to large-screen viewing.

Asked if Tuluntulu has plans to support higher quality streams for higher resolution displays, Van der Hoven said “you can’t be everything to everyone”.

He said that they don’t want to go toe-to-toe with all the other streaming providers competing for viewer eyeballs, but is instead focusing on an area of the developing market where no-one else operates.

A conservative estimate of their potential market in Africa is 200-million people, Van der Hoven said. After launching in Africa they’ll set their sights on Asia which has a similar or larger number of potential users.

Newly launched channels

Tuluntulu Android screenshots
Tuluntulu Android screenshots

Following the recent launch of the Tuluntulu iOS app, the company has now added a number of channels to its platform as well.

This includes three of their own channels which are curated by Tuluntulu and includes content from YouTube for which they have received permission to stream.

Tuluntulu’s channels are:

  1. Good4U (a comedy channel);
  2. Spark4U (a knowledge channel); and
  3. Africa4U (an African content channel).

They also have a number of “joint venture” (JV) channels, where they have been in discussions with various content owners:

  1. Mobile Outdoor (hunting & fishing);
  2. GUAP (music); and
  3. Fleur TV (fashion).

Quizzed about the JV channels, Van der Hoven said, “It’s about communities that have been treated badly by broadcasters, quite frankly.”

The barrier to entry for a channel on Tuluntulu is R50,000 per month, but with JV channels they enter into other deals, such as equity sharing.

“We’re also open to any other reasonable exchanges,” Van der Hoven said.

Tuluntulu also has a few commercial broadcast channels testing out the service:

  1. Al Jazeera
  2. ANN7
  3. Mindset Learn

And the tenth channel launched on the platform is AfriDocs, an African documentary channel.

Platform support

Asked about the platforms Tuluntulu supports, Van der Hoven said that they now have apps for Android and iOS and are looking at supporting Windows Phone due to its popularity in East Africa.

The challenge they face is that the video player which they use to decode their stream, which uses XviD compression, is not supported on all platforms just yet, Van der Hoven said.

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New video channels for SA mobile streaming app