SABC wants to launch TV licence rewards

The SABC recently closed bids for potential service providers to build and manage a TV Licence rewards programme.

A bid document posted on the public broadcaster’s website explained that the programme would encourage client loyalty and compliance with TV License legislation.

That would serve as a way of increasing collected licence fees to ensure the financial sustainability of the public broadcaster.

The SABC has struggled to get TV licence holders to pay their fees in the past few years.

In the broadcaster’s 2020/2021 financial year, only 17.9% of its budget TV licence revenue was realised, partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic making it difficult for people to pay their fees.

But even in its 2021/2022 financial year, with little to no Covid-19 restrictions, the compliance rate was only 18.3%.

The SABC’s financials showed it had only collected R815 million in TV licence revenue from an estimated R4.45 billion that it was owed during that year,

It contributed to an overall loss of R275.4 million in the year.

The SABC would only have required around 24.5% of paying TV licence holders for it to break even during the year.

SABC explains rewards programme criteria

In its bid document for the rewards programme, the SABC said that TV Licences needed to “reconnect and engage” with consumers in an “innovative and relevant” manner that added value to their TV Licence purchase and SABC experience.

“The programme will become an extension of the TV Licenses product offering with a natural fit that also builds a relationship with our core clientele, domestic television license holders and SABC audiences,” the document explained.

The successful bidder will be required to create a custom-designed and custom-developed, fully cloud-hosted system maintained by a dedicated team.

The programme’s functionality must include the following elements:

  • Integration with TV Licences database for real-time account validity checks
  • Tier-specific rewards
  • A segmented members database
  • Rewards earning capabilities
  • Rewards spending, transfer, or donating capabilities
  • Promotions, competitions, and  surveys
  • Accessibility via an app, web portal, and USSD

In addition, the programme must be “flexible, simple, and robust” to enhance the SABC brand and consumers’ lives.

The idea of a loyalty programme for TV licence holders is nothing new.

The SABC previously published a bidding document for a rewards programme with similar parameters in December 2020.

However, its attempts to get such a programme off the ground go back over two decades.

According to an old ITWeb report, the SABC wanted to launch an “Explorer Supercard” with the Explorer Corporation’s E-Direct loyalty club division in December 1998.

It appeared that this initiative suffered a quiet death, as MyBroadband could find no further reports on the plan.

It is also possible that there is no online record of what happened to the plan, given that the Internet and online news in South Africa were still in their infancy at that time.

SABC projecting another dismal loss

The SABC’s chief financial officer Yolande van Biljon painted a grim picture of the broadcaster’s outlook for the 2023 financial year during a presentation to Parliament on Wednesday.

After previously projecting modest revenue of R64 million in a plan from February this year, it now anticipates a considerable loss of R608 million by the end of March 2023, more than double the previous year’s loss.

Van Biljon blamed this on the consistent underperformance of the SABC’s advertising revenue business and SABC TV Licence revenue collection.

To address the TV licence issue, the broadcaster has previously proposed three interventions:

  • A technology-neutral, device-independent, public media levy to replace the existing television licence.
  • The dominant subscription broadcaster — currently MultiChoice’s DStv platform — must collect a part of the above-mentioned fees on its behalf.
  • More direct funding for public interest programming by relevant government departments without compromising the SABC’s “independent editorial independence”.

To modernise its offering and provide viewers with the same on-demand experience they now get with video streaming services, the SABC recently also took over TelkomOne’s streaming platform and relaunched it as SABC+.

However, the service does not require the user to have a paid-up TV licence to use it.

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SABC wants to launch TV licence rewards