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Sat Oct 01 09:04:38 CAT 2016

Netflix is switched on

Azizzar Mosupi | 08 January, 2016 00:36
GAMECHANGER? Netflix CEO Reed Hastings launched the internet movie streaming service globally in Las Vegas on Wednesday, simultaneously bringing its network to more than 130 additional countries around the world, including South Africa
Image by: ETHAN MILLER/AFP

The jury is out on whether the arrival of Netflix in South Africa will be the game changer predicted, with industry experts maintaining that its impact remains to be seen.

On Wednesday, the US internet television network announced that it was extending its service to 130 more countries, including South Africa.

The network has more than 70million subscribers globally.

It is ploughing billions of dollars into producing original content and has made hits such as Orange is the New Black, and House of Cards, with Kevin Spacey.

Stuff Magazine editor Toby Shapshak said Netflix's move into the South African market should not be misunderstood.

"It's not an alternative to DStv.

"It's a back catalogue, which means that old shows that have aired in primetime abroad, as well as for syndicated networks, are now available for live streaming in South Africa.

"DStv, on the other hand, has current shows, news and sport."

Multichoice, DStv's parent company, said it welcomed the competition and did not expect Netflix to have an adverse effect on its products or customer base.

"We hold extensive content deals with a number of international suppliers that enable us to [be the first to] deliver exclusive international entertainment to our customers across multiple platforms."

South Africa has a number of video-on-demand streaming services, such as ShowMax, Vidi, VU and OnTapTV.

Richard Boorman, a ShowMax spokesman, said that Netflix was a significant addition to the lineup but there were several differences between its service and his company's. ShowMax allows its subscribers to download content and watch it later - Netflix does not. The delayed viewing option helped "broaden access to people who don't have a great internet connection".

Slow broadband speeds and limited broadband penetration in this country have been identified as major factors hampering the take-up of internet-heavy products such as online video streaming and video on demand.

"Netflix's primary audience are people with a decent broadband connection," said Shapshak.

A 4Meg ADSL line, preferably uncapped, would do the job, he said.

Arthur Goldstuck, of World Wide Worx, said few people had an internet connection strong enough for the problem-free use of a service such as Netflix.

Shapshak said Netflix in the US had driven down the incidence of pirating of TV series and movies.

"This shows that people would rather pay for the convenience of a service such as Netflix and do away with the hassles - including exposure to hackers and viruses, and the poor quality of pirate downloads."

He said networks were fighting piracy by making legal content cheap and easily accessible.

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