Cool your jets, Netflix and Hulu aren’t coming to South Africa


I don’t have a crystal ball.

But, if I was a betting man I wouldn’t place too much money on the rumours that Netflix and Hulu are coming to South Africa.

That’s because this isn’t the first time the market has interpreted a couple of strategically placed comments, keynote speeches and off-the-record backroom whisperings – from telcos and other influential individuals – as an indication that video and audio streaming services like Hulu and Netflix are about to arrive.

A few years ago, when it started making noise about transforming the market, a source inside Neotel’s management team confirmed to us that it was in discussions with Netflix, Apple (iTunes), Hulu and Spotify to bring a wealth of content to South Africa, host it in a South African datacentre and, at worst, provide some form of local cacheing.

I even spoke about it on the ZA Tech Show.

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Nothing materialised from those talks. And to be clear, I have no doubt that discussions were taking place, because my source has never led me astray before.

Talks were taking place. That should, however, not have been an indication that a deluge of legal content was headed towards the South African intertubes.

So, I’m not going to discount the fact that talks are again taking place between some content folks and some digital plumbing folks. Numerous news sites (who’ve evidently heard it with their own ears) are reporting that Telkom has said it’s in discussion with Netflix and Hulu.

That could be. But, discussions are just that.

Talks. About what could be.

Right now, we’re told by inside sources at the big pay TV service providers on the continent (take a guess who, I mean, there aren’t all that many to choose from) that the digital rights for the popular television series we all crave so badly haven’t been signed, sealed and delivered to any one party as yet. Our sources tell us that,  should anyone express any interest in bringing that content to the continent in a digital form, the big pay TV service providers will have the first shot at the action, in effect blocking the attempts of other players to get their hands on vital content licenses.

We need to be careful about what we dream. As a country, we so desperately want access to the same world-class content services as Internet users in the US and Europe have access to, that we’re willing to piece together a tenuous, at best, list of potentially unrelated events, to make the case for our content dreams finally coming true.

In my opinion, before Netflix and Hulu arrive locally, we can expect Apple to launch its portfolio of television series in South Africa – and another source, at another company that works closely with Apple on matters of this nature, has said that isn’t due to happen anytime soon.

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Sad, I know.

But that’s how it rolls, sometimes.

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