In DepthColumnsAfrica's premium TV for less


Posted on Friday, 30 March 2012 09:45

Africa's premium TV for less

David J. Blanc

In a previous column, I commented on the rapid changes in direct satellite-to-home TV reception across Africa, thanks to the launch of a number of packages, most of them free of charge. A wind of change is also blowing through the very exclusive world of premium TV "bouquets".

Until May 1, 2010, the only players in African Pay-TV were the Canal+ group, providing Canalsat to French speakers, and DSTV (also called Multichoice), to Portuguese and English speaking viewers.

As always, being the only player on the market allows companies to set astronomical monthly subscription fees. In the case of Canalsat and DSTV the rates ranged between 50 and 80 USD.

But a new player is now in town. Launched in 2010, as a result of the arrival of the Astra 4 satellite, located at 4,8 degrees east in the sky, the new top player has turned the market around, dramatically. Its powerful transponders allow easy reception in the entire southern part of Africa plus the Ghana-Nigeria region with a single beam.

DSTV's nightmare came to life in the name of TOP TV. Its aggressive pricing policy made it a very dangerous competitor: in fact the basic package is only 13 USD per month.

Although TOP TV hasn't been officially available outside of South Africa for legal reasons (including broadcast royalty fees), many people in other countries covered by the satellite beam have found ways to subscribe via some South African retailers.

The question is: Has Top TV really harmed DSTV ?

Top TV's pricing policy is indeed attractive to the emerging middle class. However it has not been able to rival with DSTV when it comes to Sports.

Also read: Africa's free TV channel boom

DSTV has exclusive broadcast rights for many international channels, such as Disney Channel and National Geographic, but the real unbeatable success of DSTV is its 7 channels dedicated to sports, including football and rugby, as well as the exclusivity of ESPN transmitting US sporting events.

TOP TV has however managed to sign broadcast deals with BET, BBC, Eurosport, Showtime, FOX, Discovery and TLC. They also produce several exclusive themed channels and offer some of the best music video channels from the UK.

It's interesting to see that DSTV has adapted to the new competition by offering a low-cost offer at the same 13 USD whilst being forced to add new channels to their existing packages to justify higher prices.

In the end, the consumer is the winner, with choices increasing and prices going down. However, consumers still need to pay very high monthly bills to get those great international and pan-African sporting events.

Nonetheless, since its launch, TOP TV has only been able capture the small part of the market that is not interested in sports.

Also read: African film industry's new lease of life in distribution

Last Updated on Friday, 30 March 2012 13:24

David J. Blanc

David J. Blanc

David Jerome Blanc has been a member of the reputable Paris-based SNRL (national radio syndicate) for several years. As a radio consultant, he has been instrumental in the setting-up of several radio stations, both digital and traditional, across Europe and Africa. David J. Blanc loves to write about his two favourite pastimes: Technology and Travel. He is a visiting professor at the American University of Paris.

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