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15 November 2018

Intertrust and moTV open up in Africa to tap mounting OTT boom

OTT has emerged quickly in Africa as a disruptive force bringing TV to parts and people it never reached before. The situation has moved so quickly that even the disruptors have sometimes found it hard to keep up as when Kwese TV owned by Johannesburg-based telco Econet Wireless exited the DTH market much sooner than anticipated, to concentrate on mobile delivery. This left South Africa’s Multichoice as virtually the monopoly provider of premium satellite-based TV services across Sub Saharan Africa.

But this comes at a time when OTT is ripping across the greater part of the continent. This is primarily cellular based, exploiting the near ubiquitous presence of mobile phones even in more deprived regions, while fixed broadband and cable penetration remains sparse. For the great majority unable to afford Multichoice’s DTH service mobile is the only option, prompting Kwese TV’s exit from satellite. New payment models around prepay have encouraged proliferation of mobile services in general, given that many users still do not have credit cards or bank accounts. Multichoice itself has belatedly responded to the OTT boom by planning to launch an online-only version of its service in 2019.

The trend has also attracted various mobile apps, with the more serious contenders backed by a platform capable of injecting premium broadcast content. Naturally rights are also an issue that most likely contributed to Kwese TV’s withdrawal mostly into on demand content, having bought a significant stake in the iFlix VoD company early in 2018. Kwese TV had over-reached itself by acquiring expensive sports rights such as three seasons of English Premier League (EPL) football matches and some US National Basketball Association League (NBA) rights. It struggled to pay as a result of failing to gain as many subscribers as it had hoped and left MultiChoice in a dominant position with the lion’s share of rights for the most popular sports in the region, chiefly soccer, rather than the three big US sports of basketball, American football and baseball.

All this point to the emergence of new forces in sub-Saharan broadcasting and moTV with the help of Intetrust has obliged. It says it offers a secure platform for OTT or hybrid services for African businesses, mostly mobile-delivered in practice. This involves integrating Intertrust’s package of content protection technologies under the ExpressPlay uDRM and XCA brands into moTV’s platform.

MoTV is a Czech company which provides an ecosystem for pay TV operators which it says stretches from transcoding to apps for mobile, tablet and web TV and operates in Prague, New Delhi, Sao Paulo and Miami, so we are not quite sure why it has popped up in Africa.

MoTV provides an ecosystem for pay TV operators to transcode content for set tops, PCs or more likely mobiles. It has been optimized for rapid low-cost set-up and delivery, which is where the Intertrust ExpressPlay and cloud DRM fit in. MoTV considered this to be the only affordable option that met MovieLabs’ security standards while supporting multiple DRMs and all the popular platforms. ExpressPlay XCA is a card-less Conditional Access System (CAS) based on Intertrust’s Marlin DRM, while also supporting the other principal DRMs found in OTT services, Microsoft’s PlayReady, Apple’s FairPlay and Google’s Widevine.