How DStv was started in a caravan

DStv is a continent-wide phenomenon, with its owner MultiChoice delivering satellite broadcast TV and online entertainment to million of viewers.

When the company began its journey however, things were very different.

M-Net – an abbreviation of Electronic Media Network – was founded in South Africa by Naspers in 1986, and at the time it was one of only two pay TV operators outside of the United States.

Since then, the business has grown to encompass a range of products from M-Net and DStv to Showmax and SuperSport.

MultiChoice’s head office in Randburg, Johannesburg has a museum commemorating the evolution of the company and it was kind enough to invite MyBroadband on a tour of the facility.

The museum offers unique insights into the obstacles and successes the broadcasting company has encountered throughout its lifetime.

From caravan to corporation

When M-Net began, some of its operations were conducted out of a caravan before it moved to its first office in Johannesburg.

At the time, M-Net was broadcasting for 12 hours a day to around 500 households who had decoders – with its first broadcast the 1986 Currie Cup final between the Transvaal and Western Province.

The first advert to run on M-Net was a “Quest for Zero Defect” ad by Panasonic, which ironically was broadcast with no sound due to a technical glitch.

In addition to its regular broadcast to paid subscribers, M-Net also had an “Open Time” slot from 18:00 and 19:00. This free-to-air time slot was implemented to attract new subscribers.

In 1989, M-Net Supersport was launched and began broadcasting on M-Net’s spare channel, eventually going on to becoming South Africa’s first dedicated sports channel.

M-Net also became the first television company to list on the JSE in 1992. Popular shows on the network at this time included Carte Blanche and Egoli.

M-Net SuperSport then changed its name to SuperSport in 1994, and its sports coverage expanded to international cricket, rugby, the US Masters, MotoGP, Wimbledon tennis, and the Tour de France.


Following the channels’ growth, MultiChoice was officially launched in 1995 as a subscriber management service for M-Net – and in the same year DStv was launched with a bouquet of 17 channels.

The original DStv Pace 500 decoder was launched at this time, and its offering was expanded by the first Dual View decoder in 2003.

The decoders sold to subscribers began to evolve too, with older hardware phased out in favour of newer devices with more features.

Old decoder models are displayed at MultiChoice’s museum, including the original Grinel and Delta 9000 decoders used by M-Net customers before the launch of DStv.

MultiChoice also appears to have a soft spot for commemorative editions of decoders.

Locked away in its museum are a World Cup 2010 decoder to celebrate the South African-hosted Soccer World Cup and a 24-carat gold-plated Delta 9000 decoder to celebrate 1 million models sold.

Going strong

All these years later, DStv continues to dominate pay-TV in Africa and boasted a total of 13.5 million subscribers across Sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2018 – with 7 million of these subscribers in South Africa.

MultiChoice has also launched online platforms such as Showmax and DStv Now to compete with other major VOD providers like Netflix.

Additionally, MultiChoice Group is set to begin trading as its own entity on the JSE on 27 February 2019, comprising MultiChoice South Africa, MultiChoice Africa, and Showmax.

M-Net and DStv Decoders

Photos of the DStv and M-Net decoders which are on display at the MultiChoice museum are posted below.

Decoders Museum (9)

Decoders Museum (8)

Decoders Museum (7)

Decoders Museum (6)

Decoders Museum (5)

Decoders Museum (4)

Decoders Museum (3)

Decoders Museum (2)

Now read: DStv prices in South Africa – 2000 to 2019

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How DStv was started in a caravan