Monday, November 9, 2015

Broadcasting regulator Icasa approves transfer of StarSat's pay-TV licence from struggling On Digital Media (ODM) to China's StarTimes Media SA.

South Africa's broadcasting regulator, Icasa, has approved the transfer of StarSat's pay-TV licence from the struggling On Digital Media (ODM) to China's StarTimes Media South Africa.

The beleaguered ODM which ran the TopTV brand which was relaunched as StarSat at the end of 2013, has been languishing in business rescue since the end of 2012.

ODM got a financial bail-out in the form of China's StarTimes which came onboard through StarTimes Media SA.

StarTimes Media SA has a 20% share in ODM but effectively holds a 65% economic interest in the struggling Woodmead-based pay-TV operator.

In return for its bail-out and as part of its future plan, StarTimes wanted the Individual Electronic Communications Network Service (I-ECNS) licence of ODM to be transferred to StarTimes Media SA.

ODM and StarTimes were criticised earlier this year that StarTimes Media SA as part of the bigger Chinese StarTimes behemoth bailing out ODM isn't meeting the legal requirement for at least 30% equity ownership by people from historically disadvantaged groups in South Africa.

Following an Icasa hearing in August, the broadcasting regulator announced today that the transfer of the pay-TV licence from ODM to StarTimes Media SA has been approved.

"Icasa approved the application as it met the applicable regulatory requirements," says the broadcasting regulator in a statement.

"Icasa believes that the decision is in the public interest and will promote competition, investment and consumer choice in the broadcasting sector."

The licence transfer will make it possible for StarTimes and StarTimes Media SA to go ahead with greater surety and investment and to recapitalise the faltering pay-TV business.

StarTimes already operates satellite and digital terrestrial pay-TV services in several African countries besides South Africa and will now undoubtedly look to further invest and expand on the StarSat brand in South Africa where it competes with MultiChoice's DStv and M-Net.

StarSat has been facing an uphill battle for pay-TV subscribers who constantly blast the operator for interrupted channel signals, sound and audio problems, bad customer care and the removal of channels like the Star Plus channel which will be terminated next at the end of this month.

According to the latest TAMS (television audience measurement survey) universe update from the Broadcast Research Council (BRCSA) that came into effect at the August, StarSat posted another massive plunge of -20.42%.

StarSat shed another fifth of its available reach, now available to just over 300 000 individuals in South Africa according to the last TAMS universe update.