South Africa’s biggest pay-TV broadcaster – DStv – has made a number of changes to its products and services in 2020.
These changes come as many affluent and middle-class South African households are adopting Internet-based streaming services over broadcasted television entertainment due to increased availability of fibre and video-on-demand services.
Most recently, parent company MultiChoice reported a drop of 100,000 Premium and Compact Plus DStv subscribers in its annual results for 2020.
The company’s mass-market segment saw significant growth, however, with an increase of 500,000 subscribers to a total of 4 million between its DStv Family, Access, and EasyView packages.
This could be an indication that it is refocusing its strategy to have lower-income households as its primary target market, but a major deal announced earlier this year shows DStv has not given up on its Premium subscribers yet.
Here are all of the big changes DStv made to its products throughout 2020.
Following a price freeze on its package fees in 2019, DStv once again increased prices on most of its bouquets this year.
The increases were fairly modest, however, with the biggest jump of R14 on the DStv Family bouquet translating to an increase of just over 5%.
The Premium package saw its subscription increased from R809 to R819, while the Access fee jumped from R95 to R100.
The table below summarises the price increases for the different packages, with the biggest jump of R14 on the DStv Family bouquet.
|DStv Price Increases|
|Packages||2019 Price||2020 Price|
|DStv Compact Plus||R519||R529|
|Add-ons||2019 Price||2020 Price|
Channels chopped, added, and changed
DStv modified its channel line-up on numerous occasions throughout the year.
It dropped two popular UK-based channels – ITV Choice and BBC First – and also axed indie-focused movie channel Sundance.
Meanwhile, it added a total of three new channels. ESPN and ESPN2 are primarily focused on American sports and additional football coverage, while fliekNET offers Afrikaans movies.
The table below shows a summary of the impacted channels, as well as when they were added or removed.
|DStv channel changes – 2020|
|SABC Encore – 1 June 2020
Sundance – 1 June 2020
ITV Choice – 4 June 2020
BBC First – 1 September 2020
Disney XD – 1 October 2020
Fox Life – 1 October 2020
|ESPN – 29 July 2020
ESPN2 – 29 July 2020
fliekNET – 1 September 2020
SuperSport thematic changes
DStv revised the structure of its sports channels, opting to go for theme-based channels and dropping the numbering system it has used for the past two decades.
There are now dedicated channels for leagues and sports, among them the PSL, the Premier League, La Liga, rugby, cricket, golf, tennis, and motorsport.
Showmax Pro and DStv Now
Sport is one of the most appealing offerings of DStv’s Premium package, and many South Africans have called on DStv to offer its sports programming separately or as part of an online package.
One of MultiChoice’s biggest moves this year was the launch of sports content on an upgraded version of its Showmax standalone streaming service.
Showmax Pro is available in multiple sub-Saharan countries and made its debut in South Africa on 19 August.
It offers a range of sports coverage including major events from athletics, football, and boxing, at a price of R449.
However, the service does not offer access to many of South Africa’s most popular sports – including major tournaments and events in rugby, cricket, motorsport, tennis, and golf.
As part of an initiative to provide the public with essential information around the COVID-19 pandemic, MultiChoice started to offer a free version of DStv Now with news and educational content.
While it initially offered most of the 24-hour news channels on its Premium package for free, this came to an end following the lockdown.
The package currently only includes eNCA and Al Jazeera, as well as several educational channels for children.
MultiChoice announced a successor to its Explora 3 decoder – the Explora Ultra – during its August showcase.
MultiChoice said the Explora Ultra offers the same PVR features as previous models, including the ability to record, rent movies from BoxOffice, and access DStv Catch Up.
In addition, it adds support for third-party streaming applications which can be accessed alongside DStv, Showmax, and Box Office. Some of these applications will be able to stream in 4K.
It comes with a new remote control that provides quick access to these third-party streaming apps.
MultiChoice also unveiled the Streama – a smart TV box which will allow customers to use DStv with only an Internet connection in addition to streaming from platforms like Showmax, YouTube, and JOOX.
The launch dates and pricing for these two devices are yet to be confirmed.
Netflix and Amazon Prime partnership
Perhaps one of the most surprising announcements from MultiChoice this year came during its annual results presentation.
The company said that it had entered into agreements with both Netflix and Amazon to integrate these services into its upcoming Explora device for South African customers.
This was an unexpected turn of events because Netflix is generally viewed as a major rival to DStv and its Showmax streaming service.
The exact nature of this deal is not yet clear, so it is not confirmed what benefits customers will gain from using Netflix or Amazon Prime Video on the new Explora.
The deal is currently under investigation by the Competition Commission, which may be why DStv has not yet released the new decoder.
DStv has also launched its Add Movies service, which offers the broadcaster’s dedicated movie channels M-Net Movies 1, M-Net Movies 2, and FliekNET as an add-on for R99 per month.
The feature, which was first announced in August, is available to Compact Plus, Compact, Access, EasyView, Indian, and Family customers.
Premium subscribers already get access to these channels.
Standalone streaming service
DStv indicated as far back as 2018 that it would launch a standalone streaming service that won’t require the installation of a satellite dish or decoder.
This was initially meant to launch before the end of March 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During its showcase in August, it finally confirmed the standalone streaming service will be accessible through the DStv app across a variety of platforms, and new customers will be able to sign up for this service with no satellite connection necessary.
While many analysts expected the company to offer this service at a discounted rate when compared to its satellite offering, MultiChoice South Africa CEO Mark Rayner explained it should be not be viewed as a separate product and would therefore be priced the same as DStv’s normal packages.
“You still buy Premium, Compact, Access, etc., depending on what your budget allows, but you just choose your access method.”
Rayner told MyBroadband that once DStv’s streaming-only offering is launched commercially, there will be an ecommerce-like sign-up process which asks customers to choose between a satellite or streaming offering.
There is currently no confirmed launch date for these new offerings announced by MultiChoice, but the company recently changed the name of its DStv Now streaming app to “DStv”, which could be the first step towards the launch of this standalone offering.