Video streaming services are the new hot thing in Africa, after the launch of Netflix throughout the continent in January, which itself followed ShowMax, the video on-demand (VOD) service from emerging market giant Naspers last year. While these charge low monthly subscription fees, one app-based streaming service is hoping its value proposition – for free – will prove popular. Called Tuluntulu, which means “continuous stream” in Zulu, it has quietly been growing its user base, and now has 375,000 downloads of its Android app, says its founder and CEO Pierre van der Hoven.
Van der Hoven is a South African pioneer in broadcasting, having been involved in founding youth radio station Yfm and eTV, South Africa’s only free-to-air television station. Both are now significant media enterprises. Started in 2012, Tuluntulu of a series of news and other channels and “is an African-focused mobile content platform delivering 20 TV channels and 13 radio stations,” he says, calling it “the first free-to-air mobile broadcaster, with the best user analytics”. Channels include Al Jazeera and other news channels.
Although most VOD services require decent internet infrastructure and fast connections, Van der Hoven says he has found a way to overcome these. “That is the conventional thinking but we approached things differently. ‘Quality’ we believe is about the content – the emotional connection the user has with the story. It is not about the picture size, or technical picture quality (HD vs SD). Tuluntulu solved the technical issues by developing technology specifically suited for ‘last mile’ African conditions. A solution that allows us to stream video on low bandwidth mobile connections, including EDGE mobile networks, while at the same time reducing the cost to the end user and still giving users the choice to watch a better quality picture when connecting via WiFi or high-bandwidth mobile connections.” He has said on the low data setting, it will use about 50MB an hour.
Van der Hoven says “it is early days but indications are that the market loves Tuluntulu. To date over 375,000 people have downloaded the app, and over 83% of the monthly users are returning users”.
Like ShowMax and ONTAPtv.com, Tuluntulu allows its users to download content over WiFi and watch it later. Essentially Tuluntulu is the first Free-to-Air mobile broadcaster, with the best user analytics.