What may have started as a steady decline due to stiff competition from the new Over-The-Top media (OTT) streamers and tougher economic conditions, has quickly turned into a nightmare for South Africa’s biggest pay-per-view television company MultiChoice Group.

Consumers in its home market of South Africa and Africa are turning their backs on it. This has put the company under immense pressure. The Telegram under took a snap online survey of what television viewers think about the service offering of this colossal television company.

By Simamkele Njo

The writing has been on the wall for some time. It was only towards the end of last year, that, in a late effort to fend off the inevitable, Multichoice, South Africa’s biggest and longest-running provider of Digital Satellite Television (DStv) service launched streaming services.

DStv announced its “Streama” services that it was to deliver as a syndication with Sky Glass as a partner in October. Sky Glass is a  smart TV streaming services. With it, users can stream every channel, merging various viewing sources like live TV, Netflix, Disney+ and other streaming platforms into one seamless interface. It does not require a satellite dish, no need for a separate box, and no need for a separate TV either. Instead, Sky Glass is designed as the entire package.

With this move, Multichoice sought to carve itself a space in the growing OTT services. The company was mitigating tough competition and eroding customer base. The company is now evolving from a traditional video entertainment business and pivoting into a streaming service.

Earlier this month, reporting on this development, Business Tech said DStv was taking a strategic step to cater to its evolving customer base.

“Following the implementation of a single stream limit last year, DStv has now reintroduced the option for subscribers to live-stream on two devices at the same time, albeit with some restrictions and a cost. The new service, dubbed “Extra Mobile Stream,” costs R199 per month for DStv Premium package subscribers,” reads the report.

Be cautioned, “new streaming-only subscribers on DStv Stream packages (rather than satellite) can get a R100 discount. While this may appear to be a positive step for users who previously felt constrained by the single-stream limit, there are some caveats to consider.”

This additional stream is only available on mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. It is not available on traditional TV sets or  Apple TV. The restriction is a prevention of abuse of shared accounts, which was common among DStv subscribers in the past.

And there’s more,  according to media reports, Multichoice, withdrew its services from Malawi this month after a court in that country ruled that its local franchise was not permitted to increase prices in the country as a whole.

This came after the media company asserted that the decision came as a consequence of a Lilongwe High Court ruling prohibiting a change in DStv price due to a disagreement involving MultiChoice Malawi (MCM) and the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra).

With these developments, taking into account the rising costs of living in South Africa, The Telegram, using social media, specifically Instagram and Facebook, canvassed DStv viewers thoughts. The feedback painted a bleak  future for the company.

On only 11% thought DStv was here to stay, whilst a whopping 89% of respondents said it had reached its sell by date.  This said it was being replaced by Showmax, Netflix, and other streaming platforms and that video-on-demand platforms like Netflix, PrimeVideo, and Hulu provided much better value for money than DStv.

It doesn’t help, some say, that DStv programming is no longer interesting. This, together with price hikes, relevance, poor-quality content, and outdate content offering make DStv unappealing.

Some say the pay-channel may linger on for a little while longer, even with dwindling viewership. DStv, they say, remains one of the largest companies in the entire country and this can ensure its longevity.

This sentiment is somewhat in sync with Multichoice annual results as announced by Group CEO Calvo Mawela in June. He said, his company had returned its Rest of Africa business to profitability and expanded its consumer services ecosystem during the year ended 31 March 2023.

“We continued to scale our overall subscriber base and benefited from a strong performance in the Rest of Africa, that delivered a trading profit for the first time since our listing in 2019.

“It is a remarkable performance by the team considering that they have had to absorb almost R3bn in currency losses in the last four years. We increased the breadth and depth of services offered to our customers and continued to grow our entertainment ecosystem, most notably through our recent streaming partnership with Comcast,” he said.

Mawela said the group added 1.7m 90-day active subscribers, representing 8% year-on-year  growth, to close the year on 23.5m subscribers. The 90-day subscriber base comprised of 14.2m households (60%) in the Rest of Africa and 9.3m households (40%) in South Africa.

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