Telkom fixed line vs MultiChoice DStv

MultiChoice’s DStv success and Telkom’s fixed line failure tells the story of two companies with very different strategies

Business graph chart performance

Naspers has recently reported its biggest MultiChoice pay-TV subscriber growth ever. In comparison, Telkom reported its lowest fixed-line subscriber numbers in 18 years.

While the two companies offer very different products in the communications market, both companies had monopolies which afforded them the opportunity to become nearly impossible to challenge.

One company made the most of this opportunity and is now making more money than ever. The other company is battling to show a profit after it decided to prioritise shareholder interests over investing in the future of the business.

MultiChoice DStv

Naspers-owned MultiChoice enjoyed a monopoly in the pay-TV market until the launch of TopTV on 1 May 2010.

The company has been raking in billions every year through this monopoly, and it made the most of its position by launching new services, securing exclusive content rights and making sure it provides South Africans with exactly what they require from a pay-TV service.

MultiChoice has continually strengthened its product range, with more content, great sports coverage, HD services, PVRs, DStv Mobile, DStv on Demand, BoxOffice and a range of online services.

Through investing heavily into its services MultiChoice made sure its DStv products are very difficult to compete against – not only because of exclusive rights on sports content, but also because of the overall quality of its offerings.

While MultiChoice’s DStv prices are often criticized, there is no shortage of people willing pay hundreds of Rands to enjoy the best TV experience in South Africa.

Telkom fixed line numbers

Telkom has been losing fixed line subscribers hand over fist for the last decade. Telkom’s fixed line subscribers peaked at 5,493,000 in 2000, but declined every single year since then to the current level of 3,000,000 subscribers.

All traditional fixed line telephony providers faced the challenge of competing against the rise of mobile services over the last two decades. There was one thing which helped fixed line players to survive and grow: broadband.

Converting traditional fixed line telephone users to broadband users meant more money per subscriber (by adding a data component to a telephone line), and more loyal subscribers.

Unfortunately Telkom was slow on the ADSL draw. Instead of providing a world class fixed broadband service and converting as many fixed line users to ADSL subscribers as possible, it provided a crippled ADSL product to protect its lucrative business data products (like Diginet).

Telkom also did not invest a large enough percentage of its billions in profit into its network to prepare for the data growth which was to come. Instead, it paid out special dividends to shareholders, especially after the sale of its share in Vodacom.

Telkom also erred massively by investing in Nigeria, resulting in a R10 billion loss.

At the same time, the company missed an opportunity to enter the data content domain by selling Telkom Media at a significant loss.

The result was telling. A decade after it launched its first ADSL service, the company still has less than 1 million ADSL subscribers. This equates to less than 20% of fixed lines at the time it launched ADSL (when there were around 5 million fixed line users).

So poor were Telkom’s broadband products that many people opted to use mobile broadband services as a primary connection.

At long last, Telkom is investing heavily in his broadband network with high-speed 20Mbps and 40Mbps VDSL services, and a fibre to the home trial.

This is good news, but Telkom lost the opportunity to become as entrenched in the telecoms and broadband market, as MultiChoice is in the pay-TV market.

The simple truth

The following graph shows the growth of MultiChoice’s South African DStv subscribers, and Telkom’s fixed line numbers decline over the last decade.

Telkom fixed lines versus MultiChoice DStv

Telkom fixed lines versus MultiChoice DStv

More on Telkom and MultiChoice

DStv – more subscribers, more money

DStv BoxOffice, Catch Up coming to tablets, smartphones

Telkom continues to bleed fixed line subscribers

Telkom’s fixed line numbers: A brief history since 1993

Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

Connect with Us



Which online social platform is your favourite?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

More News

OpenView HD subscriber numbers skyrocket

Openview HD logo

eMedia Holdings has released its financial results for the year ended 31 March 2016, revealing a sharp increase in OpenView HD subscriber numbers.

Meet the local software development company that’s expanding globally

redPanda headline image

Cape Town-based redPanda Software is rapidly growing and looking for experienced core java developers to join their team.

Weirdest and most expensive items you can buy online in South Africa

Online porn

From properties and businesses to crazy-expensive consumer goods, you don’t have to go to the dark web to find offbeat stuff to buy online.

The Pirate Bay goes back to .org domain

The Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay has gone back to the domain name where it started –


Newsletter Subscription

Email *
Enter the following to confirm your subscription *
Captcha image

Free MyBroadband Newsletter