DStv’s list of vanquished competitors in South Africa

DStv’s competitors have fought an uphill battle to attain programming rights in South Africa, as the MultiChoice-owned broadcaster often locked down premium content rights from several studios and sporting leagues.

With slim pickings on broadcast content, most pay-TV services launched in the country to rival DStv ended up failing.

In August 2017, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) revealed that MultiChoice held a 98.1% share of the pay-TV market in the country.

Icasa provided a breakdown of which broadcasters own the rights to the content in specific categories, with DStv holding the licences to eight out of the ten categories reported.

Licencing commitments — or broadcasting and streaming rights — are made between a broadcaster or streaming provider and the copyright holder to air content.

Since broadcast and streaming rights have historically been licensed separately, DStv’s biggest threat is the uptick of international streaming services launching locally.

To compete against these services, former MultiChoice owner Naspers launched Showmax in August 2015 with a subscription fee of R99 per month.

Naspers would later spin out the MultiChoice group, including Showmax, in September 2018.

Showmax currently offers subscriptions ranging from R39 for its Mobile package to R449 for its Pro plan, which includes a selection of live sports streaming.

South Africa has had Netflix and Amazon Prime Video for years. Apple TV+ launched in 2019, while Britbox launched its streaming service in South Africa in August 2021.

Most recently, Disney+ launched in the country on 18 May.

Before this onslaught from overseas, several companies tried and failed to take on Africa’s broadcasting juggernaut on its home turf.

Telkom Media acquired a pay-TV licence from Icasa in August 2008, promising that it would launch a dual-platform, multi-technology broadcasting service.

The then-CEO of Telkom Media, Mandla Ngcobo, said the service “will offer consumers a competitively priced spectrum of entertainment and interactive services through a single service provider”.

However, Telkom sold its 75% stake in the broadcasting service to a Chinese-led consortium, which said it would relaunch as Super5Media. It never launched.

Top TV

On Digital Media (ODM) launched its TopTV offerings on 1 May 2010, with prices starting from R99 per month.

In October 2013 ODM announced that it would relaunch TopTV as StarSat, which has remained since.

While DStv has hiked prices almost every year, StarSat has only implemented one price increase since its 2013 launch.

In 2007, Icasa awarded Christian broadcaster Walking on Water TV and three other new subscription broadcasting services pay-TV licences.

The other three were On Digital Media (TopTV, now StarSat), Telkom Media, and E-sat.

E-tv’s owner abandoned its E-sat licence to provide content to MultiChoice. It would later launch Openview.

Walking on Water TV (WOWtv) planned to launch a family-friendly pay-TV service, free of nudity, violence, foul language, and sex scenes.

WOWtv finally launched in 2015 and is still selling subscriptions to its service for R49 per month.

It also sells decoders and dish antennas but says if you already have a DStv installation, you don’t need to buy their kit.

Its programming categories include family, wildlife, kids, youth, business and travel.

Altech Node remote app
Altech Node remote app

Altech launched its Node push video-on-demand service in September 2014, with prices starting at R299 per month.

A major problem for the platform was the expensive decoder — R3,499 at launch.

The subscription service gave users access to TV shows and older movies while allowing them to rent newer films for R15 or R25.

Altech tried selling its Node business in July the following year, citing a “poor uptake by retail customers”.

By September 2015, Node was dead and Altron offered to refund customers R1,999 for their decoders.

Vidi

Times Media Group launched its Vidi video streaming service in September 2014, offering a monthly subscription for R149 per month.

Subscriptions included TV shows and older movies, with newer films available for rent at an additional cost.

The video-on-demand service was the first South African online streaming service to launch in the country.

However, it quietly shut down its services in February 2016, following Tiso Blackstar’s announcement that it planned to exit from its investment in the service due to its poor performance.

Black by Cell C render

Cell C launched its entertainment platform — Black — in November 2017, backing the service as the future of entertainment.

The company acquired sports rights to air football matches played by Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona, and Real Madrid.

However, Cell C announced that it was discontinuing the service in November 2019, following a review of its product portfolio.

MTN FrontRow logo

MTN launched a streaming service called FrontRow in December 2014, offering a discounted launch subscription for R179 per month. The service’s regular price was R199 per month.

It allowed users to stream content via a web browser or Android app.

The streaming service was rebranded to Vu in December 2015, offering lower prices to compete with Showmax. It eventually shut down in May 2017.

Kwese Play Roku and remote front

Liquid Intelligent Technologies’ parent company Econet launched its Kwesé TV service in 2017.

In September 2017, the broadcaster launched its Kwesé Play streaming device in South Africa in partnership with Netflix and Roku.

Kwesé actively went after sports rights — MultiChoice’s golden goose — for its pay-TV and free-to-air TV offerings. It even intended to broadcast a high-definition sports channel on its free service.

However, by 2019 Econet shut down Kwesé TV and Kwesé Play, leaving subscribers with a useless Roku 2 device.


Now read: DStv up against YouTube, Amazon, and Disney for IPL streaming rights

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DStv’s list of vanquished competitors in South Africa