Openview thrashing DStv in new customers

eMedia has gained nearly double the number of activations on its Openview service than MultiChoice’s net subscriber additions on DStv in South Africa over the past five years.

DStv and Openview are South Africa’s two biggest providers of satellite TV services.

Although video streaming has seen rapid uptake in the country over the past few years, traditional terrestrial and satellite broadcasting still have far more viewers.

While Internet penetration in South Africa has grown substantially over the past few years, a large part of the population doesn’t have access to affordable uncapped broadband packages or cannot pay for multiple gigabytes of mobile data.

DStv and Openview offer both the SABC’s channels and a wide range of content from other providers — both local and international.

According to an analysis of the two satellite broadcasters’ operational data, as presented in their annual financial results, Openview recorded about 2.139 million sign-ups between March 2019 and March 2023, while DStv had a net subscriber gain of 1.095 million.

Openview had over 400,000 set-top box activations in 2019 and 2020 before the numbers dropped to around 369,000 in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The activations started climbing again in 2022 to reach 413,000 and surged to nearly 514,000 in 2023.

DStv’s net subscriber additions in South Africa was higher than Openview’s in 2019 and 2020, at approximately 526,000 and 441,000, respectively.

In its 2021 financial year, net subscriber additions dropped to 289,000, less than the 369,000 Openview added.

Instead of recovering like Openview in the years that followed, DStv has lost subscribers as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic calmed.

In its 2022 financial year, it lost 17,000 subscribers, followed by another 144,000 subscriber drop in 2023.

The chart below compares the net customer additions of DStv and Openview between 2019 and 2023.

Openview did not report its set-top box activations for several of its interim periods, so we used the annual results for the comparison.

DStv lost an additional 194,000 customers by 30 September 2023, the end of the first half of its 2024 financial year.

Openview customers had activated 113,974 more set-top boxes by the same date.

While the latest Openview numbers look better than DStv’s, it has also seen a decline in monthly activations — from around 40,000-50,000 per month to less than 20,000.

This would suggest that the overall satellite TV market in South Africa is in a slump or has hit a ceiling for growth.

Different business models

It should be emphasised that Openview’s business model differs from DStv’s, and its activations might be considered less valuable than DStv’s subscribers.

eMedia derives revenue from its service solely from advertising, whereas DStv relies on both subscriptions and advertising.

Whereas DStv customers must pay a monthly fee, Openview has a once-off charge for its decoder, dish, and installation.

It has recently launched “UltraView” — a subscription TV add-on for Openview, but this is currently only for niche channels.

Openview only records the number of customers who activate their boxes, not those who deactivate them.

However, Openview customers might not cancel their service because there is no positive financial impact from doing so.

DStv customers can suspend their packages temporarily and then sign up again once they are willing to or able to afford the premiums.

DStv is still the biggest satellite TV broadcaster in South Africa by a substantial margin.

DStv had 7.882 million subscribers in South Africa as of September 2023, compared to Openview’s set-top box activations of 3.280 million.

However, eMedia is rapidly closing the gap.

While Openview’s activations grew by 143% between March 2019 and September 2023, DStv’s South African subscriber base only increased by 5%.

The graph below shows the changes in Openview activations and DStv South Africa subscribers in the past five and a half years.

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Openview thrashing DStv in new customers