Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TopTV's interim CEO Eddie Mbalo says previous CEO Vino Govender 'had no broadcasting experience' and TopTV needs cash.

TopTV's previous CEO Vino Govender had no broadcasting experience and the struggling pay TV operator needs cash but is not ''cash-strapped''.

Eddie Mbalo, the interim CEO of TopTV who took over from Vino Govender told Jeremy Maggs of Maggs on Media on the eNews Channel that ''this was someone who had no background in broadcasting television at all''.

''Maybe we should not have launched at the time when we did. Launching at that time came with its own challenges. The response from the public was great and I think we got overwhelmed. Vino [Govender] was great for the launch but I think now we've got to take it to the next level.''

Eddie Mbalo said TopTV currently has ''about 360 000 decoders out there. We have about 140 000 to 150 000 paying subcribers on a daily basis''.

Asked about MultiChoice he said he doesn't see MultiChoice's DStv platform as competition, although he believes that MultiChoice is not playing fair.

''I don't even see MultiChoice as our competitor. We look at a specific segment of the market and that is not MultiChoice's market.''

On Maggs on Media he accused MultiChoice of not playing fair saying ''the regulator and the government allowed for a second pay TV operator and then they used their dominance to actually try and crush any other player''. Jeremy Maggs asked him to explain and he said MultiChoice tried to crush TopTV by launching the cheap DStv Lite bouquet. ''We think that was trying to anticipate our launch'', saying that ''that wasn't fair play''.

Eddie Mbalo said that TopTV is looking at MultiChoice's content acquisition strategies, their sports acquisitions, ''at how they've managed to close access to content, locally but also internationally.'' He said TopTV is however not talking to the Competition Commission. ''We are at the moment looking at our own business, we're looking at the weaknesses, and the opportunities that exist and that is our focus at this time.''

''Content is what keeps people watching. People are excited to buy the decoder but once they tune in, if the content doesn't appeal and resonate with their emotions, then we have to relook. We should become an alternative to what is available.''

For TopTV porn is possibly still an option despite the negative publicity and shareholders who threatened to disinvest.

Jeremy Maggs asked Eddie Mbalo whether TopTV have thoroughly researched subscribers about the need for the pornographic channels TopTV planned to launch but the application which was denied by the broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

''We're getting feedback. We have not gone out to do scientific research but we're looking at the feedback we're getting. People want choice,'' said Eddie Mbalo.

He said the TopTV board and shareholders will decide if TopTV is again going to try and make a push for the porn bouquet and appeal the Icasa decision. ''That decision will be made by the board''.

Eddie Mbalo said ''pursuing commercial advertising should not be our focus at this point in time. Our focus at this point is to acquire more subscribers and to retain the ones we have.  If we provide current subscribers the content that they want to see …  the truth of the matter is South Africans want to see more of themselves, so local content is an area where we are going to be competitive.''

Asked about the financial health of TopTV, Eddie Mbalo said ''we need cash at the moment. We are not in a cash crisis, but moving forward we might have to go to our shareholders and ask for more money.''