The DStv Now standalone streaming service is set to launch before the end of March 2020, according to MultiChoice.
MultiChoice South Africa CEO Calvo Mawela first announced in May 2018 that the company was planning to offer an online-only service which does not require a satellite dish and decoder.
Early indications were that the service would be ready by the end of 2019. However, this was later postponed to the end of MultiChoice’s 2019/2020 financial year.
In November 2019, MultiChoice Connected Video CEO Niclas Ekdahl confirmed the company planned to have the standalone DStv Now service ready by the end of March 2020.
“I think the stuff that we’ve done on DStv Now in the past 12 months is actually bringing us much closer to saying that ‘Yeah, this is a service where I can stand behind’, and say that this is going to be delivering a seamless user journey for our consumers,” Ekdahl said.
At the time, he noted the service still had to undergo field trials to ensure that it was ready for a seamless rollout.
With less than a month to go, MyBroadband reached out to MultiChoice for comment on whether the launch was still due to happen in March – but the company was unable to confirm further progress on the service.
Testing hints at imminent launch
However, DStv announced this week that it would open its Premium channels to subscribers on EasyView, Access, Family, Compact, and Compact Plus packages via DStv Now for the weekend of 14-15 March.
It is possible that this open weekend could be one of the field tests Ekdahl previously referred to.
The test could be used to measure the platform’s readiness under increased demand before the company launches the service.
Given the fact that DStv Now previously suffered streaming problems during periods of heavy demand, it would help to ensure the service is capable of handling a large number of users.
MyBroadband has spoken to several media analysts about how they expect the DStv Now standalone streaming service to be priced, and the feedback has been interesting.
Africa Analysis media analyst Nozi Dikgale said MultiChoice would be able to cut operational costs on the manufacturing and installation of decoders and satellite dishes.
“MultiChoice subsidizes the decoder, therefore introducing an online service would lower the cost of acquiring a new subscriber, introduce a marginal saving on the MultiChoice Group’s income statement, and lower the cost for the new subscriber,” Dikgale said.
This could put the company in a position to offer more affordable pricing for a standalone DStv Now service – even around the same price as a Showmax subscription.
“I would expect the service to be cheaper than Showmax or perhaps even be the same price,” Dikgale said.
Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird said he thinks the price of a standalone DStv Now service will be comparable to a Netflix package.
“We can be sure that they have done their homework and are likely to hit the ground with a competitive offer,” Bird said.
Netflix’s subscription options in South Africa range from R99 to R169 per month, all of which offer access to Netflix’s full content library.
Currently, DStv’s most affordable package – that does not primarily feature free-to-air television – is Access. It will cost R110 per month from 1 April 2020.
Sport could be an add-on
DStv holds one definitive advantage over Netflix and other streaming platforms currently: its rights to live sports broadcasting.
Many users have not cancelled their DStv Premium subscriptions because there are few or no alternatives to legally watch sports like rugby, cricket, and football.
Bird said that although the base pricing of the standalone DStv Now service could compete with Netflix, sports packages would possibly be offered as an add-on.
Dikgale echoed this prediction and added that DStv could opt for advertising on content like sport.
“MultiChoice could introduce a transactional business model for pay-per-view on certain content such as sports or an AVOD (advertising video on demand) business model,” Dikgale said.