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Video streaming is fast becoming a new battleground for mobile operators, which are racing to grow their data businesses to offset the decline of traditional voice revenues.

While online streaming was "yet to go mainstream", rising smartphone penetration and increasing data speeds would fuel the growth of the business, said MTN SA corporate affairs executive Jacqui O’Sullivan.

To encourage customers to stream more content, MTN is promoting locally made short video clips. "Short-form content, with a key focus on niche and local content, has and will continue to move customers to streaming video platforms," O’Sullivan said.

The company’s MTN Shortz platform allows local-content providers to distribute their content to the mobile operator’s customers.

MTN also has a partnership with international short-video aggregator Vuclip.

Telkom was persuading customers to watch content online by reducing data costs and making some content free on certain packages, a spokesperson for the company said.

"We have seen a greater uptake of video streaming since the launch of our LIT service."

This was "due to the anxiety of the cost of data required for streaming services being removed for our customers".

Telkom’s consumer business head, Attila Vitai, said "the growth in data revenues is pretty much offsetting the declining voice revenues on the [fixed-line] side, which is what we intended to do.

"And we have set ourselves up for future services which will be video and content-based."

The LIT service "has been very well received and we have gained knowledge of consumer behaviour, needs and wants in terms of content, both on the fixed-line and on the mobile side", he said.

Mobile operators are also starting to compete directly with pay-TV providers.

In 2017 Telkom launched a "media box" that allows customers to turn their television sets into "smart TVs", with channels provided by its content partners.

Cell C launched a similar service, Black, in November. Black is a standalone entity under the Cell C group that allows users to pay for content on a subscription or once-off basis using airtime.

Surie Ramasary, CEO of Cell C’s Black division, said Cell C had "launched some aggressive data bundles" to promote Black.

"The uptake has been very promising, we didn’t expect to have the uptake that we did."

Vodacom’s Video Play app lets customers watch music videos, TV shows and news.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za 

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