Stop blaming DStv

Following MultiChoice instituting court action against ICASA over its inquiry into the pay-TV market in South Africa, former ICASA CEO Pakamile Pongwana has heavily criticised the regulator.

In a column written for the Sunday Times, Pongwana states that ICASA’s proposed changes to the local pay-TV market – which aim to boost competition and lower subscription prices – are deeply flawed.

He said the following matters were problematic:

  • There is an assumption that other pay-TV operators failed locally because of MultiChoice.
  • No direct evidence of why pay-TV licensees did not enter the local market, or what contributed to their failure, is shown.
  • ICASA has dismissed the importance of OTT players like Netflix.
  • No concrete numbers on the size of Netflix locally were obtained.
  • Not allowing for exclusive sports broadcasting rights could cause massive damage in South Africa.

Pongwana said these factors must be considered before further steps are taken by ICASA.

Court battle

MultiChoice taking ICASA to court so it can obtain more in-depth information about the pay-TV inquiry took place in the same week as ICASA’s public hearings on the Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations.

These look at how South Africans can access national sporting events and how minority and developmental sport receives exposure.

The pay-TV market inquiry and sports broadcasting regulations both pose a risk for MultiChoice, as the company’s DStv and SuperSport brands often acquire exclusive broadcasting rights to major sporting events.

Forcing MultiChoice to give up exclusive sports broadcasting rights will seriously hurt DStv and its business model. If sporting events are made free-to-air or MultiChoice is forced to share its broadcasting rights, they lose a competitive edge – and subscribers may not see the point of having a DStv subscription.

Organisations like SA Rugby and SAFA have also stated that they derive large parts of their income from MultiChoice, as the company pays them for TV rights.

ICASA’s inquiry into the pay TV market – which shares certain elements with the sports broadcasting hearings, but is a separate process by the regulator – is also troublesome for MultiChoice as they say it ignores competition from Netflix.

MultiChoice has said that ICASA does not understand the broadcast terrain and that the regulator must provide “information, evidence, and research that underpins its draft findings”, stated the report.

Once this information is provided, MultiChoice will be able to supply a comprehensive response to the regulator.

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Stop blaming DStv