Johannesburg - Mobile operator Cell C has launched its own media and video-on-demand platform.
Called Black, it comes complete with the option of its own interactive TV set-top boxes, powered by Android.
Speaking at the launch event in Bryanston, Johannesburg, this week, Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos said the business was an independent division of Cell C.
He added that customised, heavily discounted data rates designed specifically for the platform would be available.
Addressing the packed venue, Dos Santos said the cellular operator had signed a partnership with US television network operator Fox to offer various Fox channels on Black, including the controversial Fox News Channel, Fox Sports, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild.
Fox+, Fox’s video-on-demand platform, is also being launched as part of Black.
This will offer on-demand access to popular shows such as The Walking Dead, Homeland, Empire and Modern Family.
According to Dos Santos, Black represents a move away from the usual subscribing and contract model, so Cell C users will not suffer from data “billing shock”.
Instead, the company has opted for various prepaid packages and aligned data options.
“Consumers no longer want to sign a contract and be tied to a monthly subscription,” said Dos Santos.
“Black is dynamic because you will be able to buy packages and rent movies.”
This week, Cell C launched a range of low-cost, prepaid data bundles, allowing users to stream content from Black at an in-bundle rate of as low as 1c per megabyte.
Another unique product innovation is that consumers can use Cell C prepaid airtime to buy content, making it accessible for the unbanked market.
The content is also available to non-Cell C customers, who can buy data packages through its mobile application.
Dos Santos said that, through Black, the company would also be bidding for broadcasting rights to screen international sporting events, such as those for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in 2019.
Speaking to City Press after the launch, Black’s head of content, Surie Ramasary, admitted that the streaming platform model had been tried unsuccessfully by other companies, but said the team at Black had learnt from their failures.
“The market is definitely ready for this because we considered all there is to consider – including the affordability of data,” she said.
Ramasary expressed confidence in the optimised overall packages being offered by Black, saying the market needed this.
As an entity, Black is a division of Cell C and not an independent subsidiary. Ramasary is the sole executive.
In the past, there have been strained relations between similar platforms and local content producers over intellectual property rights.
But Ramasary said Black already had agreements in place, as well as concrete relationships, with a number of content producers.
Black has made available 20 000 of the set-top boxes at a cost of R1 499 each, but on Black Friday – November 24 – it will slash this price by 30%.
Dos Santos said Black could be accessed by using iOS and Android apps (called GetBlack), as well as an Android-powered TV set-top box.
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