THE BIG DEBATE BURSTS BACK - WITH REDI TLHABI

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Five new possible pay-TV services for South Africa, as the broadcasting regulator hands out 5 new provisional licences to pay-TV operators.


Possible new pay-TV competition is coming to South Africa with South Africa's broadcasting regulator which has granted five provisional licences for individual commercial subscription television services.

Pay for gay television, education television, local content for the lower and middle market, and club soccer matches from Southern Africa could be coming to South African pay-TV subscribers with provisional pay-TV licences granted by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to Close-T Broadcast Networks Holdings (CloseTV), Mindset Media Enterprises, Kagiso Media (Kagiso TV), Siyaya Free to Air and Mobile TV.

It remains to be seen whether any of the companies granted licences would be able to bring a successful pay-TV service to market in South Africa's second attempt to open up the country's pay-TV sector to more players since 2007.

Out of the previous round of pay-TV licences granted by Icasa to Telkom Media, On Digital Media (ODM), e.Sat and Walking on Water TV (WowTV), only the struggling On Digital Media (ODM) actually launched the TopTV, now StarSat, service which is in business rescue.

e.tv decided not to start a service, Telkom Media which became Super 5 Media collapsed and WowTV never got off the ground. 

The five companies who got provisional licences to start subscription television services in South Africa have three months to  respond to the regulator with various documents and proof that they're able to start pay-TV services before permanent licences will be granted.

The new companies all want in on South Africa's lucrative pay-TV market dominated by MultiChoice's DStv, M-Net's analogue subscription TV service, and ODM's StarSat while TV viewers and the industry are hamstrung by the government's ongoing shambolic delay to start digital terrestrial television (DTT) and the promise of more TV channels.

Close-T Broadcasting Network wants to show South African viewers pay for gay TV content in a service its calling CloseTV which includes a pay-per-view on-demand service.

Kagiso Media wants to start Kagiso TV with around 70 TV channels for a subscription fee of R240 per month and with channels heavily focused on local content driven by entertainment and news.

Siyaya TV with talk show host Dali Thambo as one of the investment backers, want to start its own local soccer league and broadcast those matches for a monhtly subscription fee of R70 with a PVR.

Mindset Media wants to broadcast educational content to public schools around the country. Mindset wants provinces to pay TV subscription fees per school. Mobile TV wants to start eight TV channels and four radio stations for mobile devices such as cellphones and tablets.

"Although the conditions imposed are specific to each of the five applicants, they generally relate to, among others, confirmation of equity ownership; funding requirements; further research; confirmation of local content; and programming content agreements," Icasa says in a statement announcing the provisional pay-TV licences.

The provisional licences are the result of a new set of hearings which the broadcasting regulator held in July 2013, following the new invitation to apply for subscription television licences in February 2012.

In February the broadcasting regulator announced that it is launching an investigation into subscription television in South Africa and the massive failure rate of licensed companies to start successful pay-TV operations in the country.