DStv exodus in South Africa — Premium subscribers not the only ones leaving

MultiChoice’s latest annual results have revealed a significant decline in customers on its DStv Premium, Compact, and Extra packages in South Africa in the past year.

The broadcaster reported a 4% loss in 90-day active subscribers in the Premium segment in South Africa from March 2021 to March 2022. This figure includes customers on its Premium and Compact Plus packages.

DStv said this was a lesser decline than the previous year, which saw an 8% drop from roughly 1.5 million to 1.4 million.

However, the mid-market segment — which encompasses Compact and Extra packages — also declined by 6%, from about 3.0 million to 2.8 million.

While the decline in Premium customers continues a trend that started in 2016, the mid-market drop is a new development.

Between 2019 and 2020, this segment stagnated and remained at 2.9 million but jumped 3% to 3.0 million in March 2021.

The graph on the left below shows how DStv’s subscriber base in South Africa changed between its 2021 and 2022 financial years. The one on the right shows how the premium segment numbers declined between its 2018 and 2022 financial years.

It was only in the mass-market segment, including the low-end Family, Access, and EasyView packages, where DStv recorded growth in South Africa.

These subscribers rose by 7% — from 4.6 million to 4.9 million.

However, they bring in less revenue than the high-end and mid-tier packages, resulting in MultiChoice’s average revenue per user in South Africa dropping 3% from R277 to R269.

Overall, 90-day active subscribers in South Africa increased by 80,000 (1%) — a relatively poor showing compared to the 515,000 increase MultiChoice recorded between the 2020 and 2021 financial years.

In the Rest of Africa (RoA), the numbers looked slightly better, with an overall increase of 7% to reach 8.48 million 90-day active subscribers.

The RoA premium segment rose 14% from roughly 900,000 to 1.1 million subscribers, mid-market climbed 17% from 1.6 million to 1.8 million, while mass-market increased 5% from 9.5 million to 9.9 million.

Decoding the numbers

MultiChoice has repeatedly revised the way it reports its subscriber figures, making it difficult to track the decline in premium subscriptions over several years.

Initially, it was possible to calculate the number of Premium subscriptions on their own by using Naspers’s subscriber mix statistics.

After Naspers spun off MultiChoice, the company started reporting Premium and Compact Plus subscribers in a single group in 2019.

From 2020, MultiChoice switched from reporting the number of paying subscribers it had at the end of its financial year to subscribers that have been active in the past 90 days, resulting in substantially higher subscriber numbers than before.

The table below shows how DStv’s subscriber numbers changed in both the South African and RoA markets.

Year DStv subscribers at 31 March 90-day Active DStv subscribers DStv Premium subscribers on 31 March DStv Premium and Compact Plus subscribers on 31 March 90-day Active DStv Premium and Compact Plus subscribers
2012 5,611,000 2,188,290
2013 6,739,000 2,291,260
2014 8,059,000 2,256,520
2015 10,225,000 2,351,750
2016 10,411,000 2,097,000
2017 11,942,000 1,962,000
2018 13,476,000 16,400,000 1,921,000 2,400,000
2019 15,097,000 18,600,000 2,500,000 2,600,000
2020 15,743,000 19,500,000 2,700,000
2021 16,356,000 20,862,000 2,300,000
2022 16,640,000 21,804,000 2,500,000
Notes: DStv Premium subscribers for 2012-2015 estimated by multiplying Premium subscriber mix percentage with total DStv subscribers

Now read: DStv vs Openview big channel changes in the last 3 years

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DStv exodus in South Africa — Premium subscribers not the only ones leaving