TopTV mistakes and improvements

TopTV acting CEO Eddie Mbalo has acknowledged that the pay TV operator has made some mistakes and has not delivered on all its promises, but added that over the next 30 days they will conduct a full review of the business.

“The focus for the next month is a full business review,” Mbalo said. “We need to assess our strengths, our weaknesses, the opportunities and threats to the business; we need to look at our service; we need to listen to what our customers are saying and we need to take a critical look at our content offering.”

Asked whether certain plans at TopTV have stalled following the exit of Vino Govender, Mbalo only emphasised that the business review will inform their decisions going forward.

However, when asked specifically about HD channels and a personal video recorder (PVR) decoder, Mbalo said that those plans have been put on hold for the moment.

Late last year (December 2011), former CEO Vino Govender said that the soonest TopTV would launch a PVR is at the end of 2012 as they were still mulling their options through a “request for bid” process.

HD and video-on-demand services would only be considered after the launch of PVR, Govender said.

Mbalo explained that TopTV’s target market isn’t asking for services like PVR and HD just yet and that relevant content is more important at this stage.

“The business review will determine our content strategy going forward,” Mbalo said. “We have some strong content such as the Fox channel and our movies and series; we have lost some content (due to channels going into liquidation, for example) and we were looking to introduce what has become rather controversial content. We need to understand clearly what our content and innovation strategy is and who we are selling to, and then implement it to take the TopTV business to the next level.”

Eddie Mbalo
Eddie Mbalo

The controversial content Mbalo referred to was a selection of three porn channels. TopTV had applied to ICASA for permission to broadcast the channels.

These channels were to carry content from Playboy TV and resulted in an outcry from various groups, including Cosatu.

TopTV initially stated that a regulatory blunder on ICASA’s part meant that the channels had been automatically approved and announced plans to launch. This resulted in an urgent interdict from ICASA, who wanted to conduct public hearings on the matter.

ICASA got the interdict and proceeded with the public hearings, from which TopTV was conspicuously absent. Following the hearing, ICASA denied TopTV’s application for the three new channels.

“As is often the case, the detractors to an issue such as adult content are more vocal – only 13 written submissions were presented to ICASA on this issue,” Mbalo said. “However, we await the reasons behind the negative decision before deciding on the future of this niche channel offering.”

Mbalo said that they expect ICASA to provide reasons for their decision to decline TopTV’s application for the channels by the end of February 2012.

“We are of the opinion that adults should enjoy freedom of choice and expression, as it is prescribed in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, to view whatever content they like in the privacy of their own homes,” Mbalo said.

“Adult content is freely available to anyone with access to the Internet or a mobile device. We believe TopTV approached the issue in a responsible manner and is disappointed with the outcome.”

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TopTV mistakes and improvements