The African startup community is abuzz with the news that BlackBOX TV, a Mozambique startup, was declared the winner of a prestigious competition.
The competition, Seedstars Maputo, saw 10 startups competing in Maputo, Mozambique, for the chance to represent their country at the international Seedstars World competition in Switzerland. In the end, BlackBOX—a broadcasting service that allows customers to stream content sans an Internet connection—was declared the winner at the Maputo event. The young startup received additional recognition as “Most Promising Seed-Stage Startup of Seedstars World Mozambique 2016.”
The global Seedstars competition receives over 4,000 applications, of which 700 are selected. Just 65 of the initial 4,000 eventually become finalists. BlackBOX now vies for the coveted international prize: up to $1 million USD and the opportunity to pitch to a legion of prominent investors. The startup is turning its focus on the international stage—a rare opportunity to expand beyond its current capabilities.
Claude Champier, founder of BlackBOX, remarked to the press, “I started BlackBOX TV because I wanted to create a VOD (Video on Demand) system, a Netflix for Africa. However, I wanted people to have access to content without a conventional data connection.” His vision would become a reality and then some.
How BlackBOX TV Works
Traditional streaming of content (e.g. Netflix) requires a data connection with sufficient bandwidth to operate. BlackBOX requires no such connectivity; instead, the product “uses third party programmes written externally by programmers and developers.”
The company’s proprietary software runs off of Android 4.4.2 (KitKat), and the company attempts to mimic the end-user’s interaction with that of a smartphone. Promising a simple “plug and play” experience, the company hopes to expand product usage internationally.
Another interesting aspect of BlackBOX is that there are no subscription fees. The company sells the product at a one-time cost (currently £125), according to the company’s website. The price point for the product is affordable, and in most cases, more cost-efficient over the long term than subscription-based services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus.
In terms of specifications, the BOX Media Player utilizes the world’s first Android 4.2 Quad Core TV Box with a 1.8 GHz CPU and 2 GB of RAM. The processing capabilities of the product permit viewing in a number of formats, including the newest 4K resolution. Other compatible viewing technologies include standard definition (SD) as well as 720p and 1080p high definition (HD). Impressively, the box also supports 3D viewing tech such as SBS, TAB, anaglyph, or interlaced.
Among the biggest draws for the product is its simplicity. The product itself is shipped with three basic items: a power adapter, remote control, and HDMI cable. Instructions are relatively basic in nature, as the regional TV listings guide is already preinstalled. Listings automatically update every 15 minutes to provide the user with the most current information.
The content available to watch includes movies, TV shows, and sporting events. The specific programs are determined by regional availability, although a payable option called IPVanish exists. It spans over 40,000 IPs on a network of over 400 servers located in more than 60 countries around the world.
Some users have voiced concerns about BlackBOX’s legality in terms of copyright law. The company has devoted much of its website’s FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page to assure users that its product is legal.
The Future: An Analysis
As the company is very new, it is difficult to ascertain the future levels of customer adoption. BlackBOX has goals to expand internationally, which may be difficult given the complexities of marketplace penetration in many countries.
In addition, the media streaming market is strongly concentrated to companies such as Netflix and Amazon, with its Prime subscription service and Fire TV products. In 2015, Amazon allocated over $5 billion USD to marketing, according to its Annual Report. It is clear that BlackBOX faces competition from global giants in several markets.
To enter new markets, BlackBOX is implementing a re-seller/distributor business model that involves “zero capital outlay and zero risk,” according to its website. It appears this strategy is a creative way to introduce the product in new territories at a lower cost than a traditional product rollout. When and if the startup achieves the desired operational scale, it will be interesting to observe whether a shift in marketing strategy unfolds.
Despite the challenges of entering such a competitive market, BlackBOX has a number of unique selling points: no subscription fees, plug-and-play capabilities, an affordable one-time purchase price, and international viewing options.
BlackBOX is exciting on a number of levels. In addition to offering a seemingly well-designed product at a relatively affordable price, BlackBOX epitomizes the technological and entrepreneurial revolution that is taking hold across Africa.
The startup has successfully launched a product in an area of the world that is home to countless talented and driven entrepreneurs. These visionaries are achieving success at an encouraging rate, and the team behind BlackBOX TV seems to have joined their ranks with their innovative product.