Free satellite TV for SA: channel genres, PVR plans

During March and April 2013, E-tv sister company Platco Digital conducted extensive market research to inform their decision on which channels to carry on OpenView HD.

This is according to Thabile Mpako, head of marketing at Platco Digital.

OpenView HD is a new free-to-air satellite TV broadcaster that is scheduled to launch in South Africa during October 2013.

It aims to be the first multi-channel platform in South Africa to offer high definition (HD) channels without charging a subscription fee.

OpenView HD channel secrecy

The broadcaster has been very guarded on revealing any details about the channels it plans to offer.

Asked about the secrecy, Platco boss Maxwell Nonge told MyBroadband that broadcasting is a highly competitive environment in South Africa.

He explained that their competitors might try and derail negotiations for certain channels should they reveal too much information.

Nonge said they are busy finalising channels and expect to be able to make an announcement next month.

Platco previously revealed that it will be carrying SABC1, 2, and 3, and has also confirmed that E-tv will be providing channels to OpenView HD, including the free-to-air E-tv channel.

OpenView HD logo
OpenView HD logo

OpenView HD channel genres

OpenView HD will have a minimum of 15 channels at launch, and according to marketing executive Thabile Mpako they also plan to grow their channel line-up in the first year of operation.

Their channel line-up was based on feedback from research conducted in March and April, which Mpako said received an overwhelmingly positive response.

In an interview with MyBroadband, Nonge and Mpako remarked that it was interesting how many respondents indicated that they wanted informational programming.

This is not only programmes teaching the school curriculum, they highlighted, but includes documentaries, and local and international news as well.

Based on the research, Platco’s priorities for OpenView HD’s channels were as follows:

  1. Local news;
  2. Education;
  3. International news;
  4. Local dramas and soaps;
  5. Movies;
  6. Children’s programs;
  7. Reality;
  8. Comedy;
  9. Music;
  10. Gospel;
  11. Lifestyle;
  12. International dramas, series and soaps;
  13. and others.

Nonge said they have secured channels in just about all of the above genres.

As for their maximum channel capacity, Nonge said that they are sitting pretty for a free-to-air service. Platco can carry up to 100 standard definition channels and 30–40 HD channels on OpenView HD, he said.

PVR and decoder pricing

Addressing concerns over the initial decoder pricing, Nonge said that he believes the price will come down very quickly once all distributors have boxes in the market.

He explained that one of the things that sets them apart is that they leave it up to distributors to source and supply their own versions of the OpenView HD decoder.

Platco has a minimum specification and compliance lab, but beyond that the pricing and features of the OpenView decoder are entirely up to the distributors.

For the initial launch, Platco said four distributors have signed up to offer OpenView HD installations. These include the larger and more well known Ellies and Space TV, as well as newcomers Switch Digital and ABT.

Asked whether they plan to offer personal video recorder (PVR) facilities, Nonge said to expect a full PVR box in market by next year (2014).

Future plans

Speaking to rumours that Platco would launch a pay TV or satellite broadband service, Nonge said that both are possible on the platform they are building.

However, he added that they are trying to emphasise that OpenView HD will remain a brand representing subscription-free services.

There will never be a day where OpenView will suddenly will have a subscription component to it, Nonge said.

He said that such services might use the OpenView box, pointing out that their minimum decoder specification includes a USB port.

However, any subscription service Platco launches in future will not bear the OpenView name, Nonge emphasised.

Asked for more information on their future broadband and pay TV plans, Nonge said that they “aren’t there yet”. Their focus right now is on successfully launching OpenView HD, he said.

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Free satellite TV for SA: channel genres, PVR plans