Death by half a million cuts — South Africans kiss DStv goodbye

MultiChoice lost nearly half a million DStv subscribers in South Africa in the past year, according to the company’s latest interim results (1H FY2023).

As of the end of September 2023, the pay-TV broadcaster’s 90-day active subscribers in its country of origin stood at 8.629 million.

This was 486,000 less than the 9.115 million it had at the same point in 2022.

MultiChoice attributed most of its subscriber losses to a decision that ended pricing promotions it launched in 2022 to provide financial relief to customers amid load-shedding hardships.

“While the group has supported its subscribers with similar campaigns during challenging periods like the Covid-19 lockdowns, we can only do so for limited periods of time,” MultiChoice said.

This resulted in 311,000 non-revenue generating customers on its temporary “Surprise and Delight” offers being removed from DStv’s 90-day active subscriber base. These subscribers accounted for 3% of the total 5% decline.

DStv’s 90-day active subscriber base includes all customers with an active package for up to 90 days before 30 September 2023.

The active customer base — including subscribers who had valid packages on 30 September 2023 — also declined by 382,000 customers. This number dropped from 8.204 million to 7.822 million.

The other major factor MultiChoice blamed for its subscriber decline was increased load-shedding.

Premium is no longer the biggest headache

MultiChoice said “more stable” trends in its mid and upper customer segments, and inflation-linked average price increases of around 4%, helped limit the decline in monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) to 2%.

DStv divides its subscriber base into three main categories:

  • Premium segment — Premium and Compact Plus packages
  • Mid-market segment — Compact and Commercial packages
  • Mass market segment — Family, Access, and EasyView packages

The Premium package has been in decline for several years.

Customers with this package are most likely to be able to afford and have access to uncapped broadband packages and video streaming services, which have become a major rival for traditional TV services.

Surprisingly, MultiChoice said it recorded a 5% increase in subscribers on this package. It is possible that this was a temporary boost driven by sign-ups for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

However, the Premium segment, which also includes Compact Plus, saw an overall decline of 5%.

Due to MultiChoice rounding its subscriber numbers — it is unclear exactly how many subscribers were lost in this segment, as the number remained 1.3 million.

The mid-market segment experienced a significant drop, with subscribers in this category declining 14% from 2.7 million to 2.3 million.

The damage was less severe in the mass market, where DStv lost 1% of its subscribers.

The graphics below from MultiChoice’s results presentation compare DStv’s subscriber base trends in South Africa from its interim results for the 2022 financial year (H1 FY2022) to H1 FY2023.

In the Rest of Africa (RoA), MultiChoice increased its 90-day active subscriber base by 70,000. Overall, its RoA subscriber numbers remained at just over 13 million.

However, the subscriber base measured on 30 September 2023 across the Rest of Africa declined by 25,000 customers — dropping from 8.906 million to 8.881 million.

Overall, DStv subscribers across all markets dropped from 17.110 million to 16.703 million.

DStv’s blended ARPU also declined 3% — from R235 to R229.

The graphic below shows how DStv’s subscriber base trends in its RoA markets changed from its H1 FY2022 to H1 FY 2023 results.

Now read: DStv monopoly regulation in South Africa — what happens next

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Death by half a million cuts — South Africans kiss DStv goodbye