A petition calling for individual channel selection and customisable DStv channel bouquets is circulating around e-mail inboxes of South Africans, and appears to have collected a substantial amount of names already.
The e-mail claims that MultiChoice already has software that can offer DStv subscribers this level of customisation, but that the pay-TV broadcaster has just never implemented it.
“Let us be in charge of that which we want to watch and pay for only that,” the e-mail demands. “Should DSTV come up with a new and interesting channel, then let them give us a free 1 month trial.”
Channel bouquets and the consumer protection act
The issue of channel unbundling came up at a governmental level last year (2011) when the National Consumer Commission (NCC) served MultiChoice and On Digital Media (Top TV) with compliance notices.
It is understood that the NCC invoked part of the Consumer Protection Act which states:
Suppliers may not require consumers to purchase additional goods or services, or to enter into an additional agreement or transaction unless it can be shown that:
- The convenience to the consumer in having those goods or services bundled outweighs the limitation of the consumer’s right to choice;
- The bundling of those goods or services results in economic benefit for consumers;
- Bundled goods or services are available separately and at individual prices.
The merits of the NCC’s compliance notice against South Africa’s subscription satellite broadcasters was never determined, however, as the National Consumer Tribunal ruled that the NCC didn’t follow proper procedure.
Approached to comment on the issue of user-selectable channels, MultiChoice said that DStv does not provide customised channel selection as the service will be very expensive for subscribers. It is also not a viable business model, MultiChoice said.
MultiChoice added that the pre-packaged service allows it to provide subscribers an affordable service well into the future as it lets it spread the cost of each channel across the bouquet.
“Our business model enables us to continually introduce new innovative products and services on DStv,” MuliChoice said.
The claim that their software already allows for customisable bouquets is also not accurate, MultiChoice said. “Neither our decoder software nor our administrative systems allow for this level of customisation.”
According to MultiChoice all pay television operators world-wide provide pre-packaged channels.
MultiChoice explained that there are operators with a variation on this model that offer a basic bouquet with the ability to add limited genres such as movies.
“The economic realities of the pay television industry is such that payment for channels has an economies of scale benefit which results in savings which are passed on directly to our subscribers,” MultiChoice said.
This means that should customers choose only the channels they want to watch, they will have to pay much more per channel.
“There is a significant cost associated with the development, implementation and administration of the broadcast and back-end systems required to deliver customised channel packages to individual subscribers,” MultiChoice said.
The net result, MultiChoice explained, would be a more expensive service and a lowering of the overall value of the DStv service.
Asked whether a petition such as the one doing the rounds in South Africa would make any difference in their decision-making on this issue, MultiChoice provided the following statement:
MultiChoice continually reviews its offering. Although we do take every customer’s feedback seriously, we also conduct market research and international benchmarks when reviewing our offering. Over the years we have introduced different bouquet offerings and prices to cater for different consumer lifestyles and pockets.
We understand that some customers are only interested in certain channels. However, our focus is on catering for the varied needs of all our customers and to also ensure that we provide an affordable and sustainable service.