DStv monopoly inquiry rebooted

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has announced that it will relaunch consultations for its inquiry into the Subscription Broadcasting Services Market.

“Upon considering the draft findings emanating from the Inquiry — [Icasa] is of the view that further consultation and engagement with stakeholders is required,” said Icasa chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.

“Any regulatory intervention in this market ought to take account of current policy developments, as well as recent technological and market trends,” he said.

This includes the entry of complementary and competitive services introduced by over-the-top players like Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video.

Icasa launched the inquiry in 2016 and published its findings in April 2019.

It concluded that MultiChoice has a dominant position in South Africa’s subscription broadcasting market and proposed several remedies. This included:

  • Unbundling sports rights
  • Splitting content rights with more than one broadcaster
  • Limiting the number of Hollywood studios a broadcaster may have exclusive agreements with
  • Decoder interoperability with multiple satellite services

MultiChoice baulked at the proposed regulations and took legal action against Icasa over having to give up its major competitive edge — sports rights.

Last year, MultiChoice told Icasa that it faces an existential threat from major international streaming providers.

“We consider providers like Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, HBO Now, and Peacock to be an existential competitive threat,” it stated.

Icasa appears to have taken MultiChoice’s submission to heart and said it would reset its subscription TV market inquiry.

Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, ICASA Executive Chair
Keabetswe Modimoeng, ICASA Executive Chair

“The rebooting of this process is meant to enable the Authority to take account of all relevant and current developments to inform a robust, forward-looking regulatory intervention that balances interests of consumers and stability of the broadcasting services market,” Modimoeng said.

Icasa said that, among other things, it must consider matters such as the non-transitory (structural, legal, and regulatory) barriers to entry, and the dynamic character and functioning of the markets or market segments.

The regulator said it is mindful that any regulation must enhance future competitiveness in the market.

Its extended consultation will include the publication of a questionnaire to solicit comments and information from interested stakeholders, taking into account work from the 2021–22 financial year Inquiry.

Icasa will conduct a full inquiry that includes publishing an updated discussion document and public hearings.

From this, it will come to a conclusive determination of the subscription TV market dynamics, the regulator said.

Now read: Disney+ reveals movies and shows coming to South Africa

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DStv monopoly inquiry rebooted