DStv losing major local channel

WildEarth, channel 183 on DStv, has confirmed that it will pull its channel from the pay-TV broadcaster, attributing the decision to a lack of support from MultiChoice.

André Crawford-Brunt, chair at WildEarth, said the channel, which airs live sunset game drives or “safaris” primarily from the Djuma Game Reserve in Mpumalanga, plays a vital role in education, conservation, and tourism.

However, he said it isn’t viable for the company to continue airing its content on DStv without compensation.

“We have been begging MultiChoice for over a year to support us. We have made the case that not paying us anything for our content is unsustainable for us — although great for them,” said Crawford-Brunt in an open letter.

“We told them we have a large and passionate viewership, long viewing times, and that we represent everything positive about South Africa. We reminded them that we are the largest producer of local content in the country.”

In an interview with BizNews, Crawford-Brunt said MultiChoice made a commitment to help fund WildEarth, which it failed to uphold.

Many of the channel’s fans launched petitions and a fundraising campaign in response to WildEarth’s announcement that it was being removed from DStv’s catalogue. As of 28 March, the campaign had raised R4.7 million in 72 hours.

According to Crawford-Brunt, the removal of the channel could have a significant impact on MultiChoice.

“MultiChoice, and their potentially soon-to-be new owners Canal+, should read the thousands of comments on the petition and social media,” he wrote.

“Many of you are the same people who pay monthly DStv subscriptions, and indirectly their salaries. Many of you have reiterated that the only reason you pay your subscriptions is for WildEarth.”

This is despite MultiChoice, two years ago, announcing its plans to focus on locally-produced content.

In June 2022, the pay-TV broadcaster said it planned to spend half its content budget on African-made shows with local actors and producers within the next two years.

However, WildEarth appears to have not made the cut, and Crawford-Brunt alluded to this in his open letter.

“WildEarth represents everything MultiChoice proclaims to champion. Our stories are created by South Africans — shot, edited, broadcast, produced, directed — not large multinational conglomerates who send crews out here to shoot African stories and then sell them back to Africa,” he wrote.

“Purchasing African wildlife content from American media giants, in dollars, while shunning local production, does not represent ‘unwavering commitment to uplifting and showcasing local content, talent, and industries’.”

“WildEarth’s struggle is a mirror held up to MultiChoice, reflecting the image of a lumbering giant who has fallen foul of the times,” Crawford-Brunt added.

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DStv losing major local channel