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DStv sets the table for binge viewing

2014-06-04 15:58
Cape Town – MultiChoice and M-Net are charting a brave new course, adjusting, and venturing into new television territory: on demand "binge viewing".

MultiChoice and M-Net is making the entire first and not yet broadcast second season of House of Cards shown on M-Net, available to DStv subscribers in June.

The move is highly significant and its impact shouldn’t be underestimated. It is the first time that any broadcaster or pay-TV operator in South Africa is making an entire season of a major current TV show available to viewers on demand, and before its been broadcast on linear television.

It's a big step. It's not just an M-Net first and a MultiChoice first but a South African television industry first, signaling a shift to embrace and experiment and move forward as television and the TV experience for viewers in South Africa and the rest of Africa are changing.

Channel24 asked MultiChoice and M-Net about the very bold decision to make the episodes of a TV drama series available to viewers before it has been shown in the traditional, linear broadcasting and viewing way.

Why it is so significant, is because MultiChoice and M-Net are making premium television content available to consumers on a video-on-demand (VOD) way, literally allowing consumption and "streaming" as if it's an American Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime – but using direct-to-home (DTH) satellite pay-TV technology.

'A treat to viewers who love binge viewing'

"We reached an agreement with Sony Pictures Television to make both House of Cards season 1 – already screened on M-Net, and season 2 – which will commence on Friday 27 June – available as box sets, on demand," Lani Lombard, M-Net's head of publicity and special projects tells Channel24 when asked why this groundbreaking decision was made.

"This is a special treat to viewers who love 'binge viewing', a growing international phenomenon. Having a series available before it has been aired within a channel's line-up is yet another first for M-Net and DStv Catch-Up," says Lombard.

But how does M-Net feel about making content available on DStv before it's been shown on its premium pay-TV channels like M-Net and M-Net Series Showcase?

Conventional TV biz wisdom would caution against it – surely a TV channel will be scared that viewers will gobble up the cheese like mice all in one go, impacting ratings and affecting return tune-in behaviour later?

"M-Net has always had its finger on the pulse of the latest global television trends, and this special treat is testament to that," says Lombard.

"While some viewers will prefer feasting on the new episodes back to back with the box set, others will continue to get their weekly fix with the scheduled broadcasts on Friday nights".

"Furthermore, having the first season available as a box set gives viewers who missed it, the opportunity to catch up – and enjoy the second season in whichever way they prefer. It's a win-win for series fans".

An experiment or a focused new TV content strategy?

Does it mean that South African pay-TV viewers, DStv subscribers for instance, can be assured that so-called new "internet shows" or TV shows created for the internet will all be seen in South Africa on pay-TV? Or are South African viewers going to miss out on certain shows because it was made for the internet?

"The deals we have with content suppliers vary depending on what the needs are," Maiyo Simapungula, DStv Digital Media spokesperson tells Channel24.

"Our aim is to always give subscribers access to the best content on the platform that best fits in with their lifestyle. As it is, 'box sets' are accessible through the DStv Explora, on the DStv Catch-Up website to stream and download on an iPad/iPhone through the DStv iOS app".

So, is the availability of Game of Thrones and House of Cards in massive chunks of see-all-you-can television buffets an experiment by M-Net and MultiChoice, or a definite new strategy, meaning that DStv subscribers will be getting access to more TV shows in future in this way?

Simapungula is coy and is not giving a definite answer as to whether its a try-and-test it experiment, or a focused new avenue that MultiChoice is exploring. Whichever it is however, one thing is certain: it is new, it is exciting and it is groundbreaking for South Africa and the rest of the continent.

"Currently 'box sets' form part of our product offering to DStv Premium subscribers. New content acquisition is always dependent on discussions with content suppliers, global trends and consumer needs," says Simapungula.

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