With M-Net celebrating its 30th anniversary as a pay-TV broadcaster in South Africa, M-Net boss Yolisa Phahle revealed that DStv is in fact looking into the possibility of giving DStv subscribers the option of subscribing and only paying for the specific TV channels they want.
The existing direct-to-home (DTH) pay-TV model in South Africa and globally doesn't allow for subscribers to choose and pay for only those channels they individually want, since pricing and payment per channel would become exorbitantly expensive.
Yet Yolisa Phahle as M-Net CEO on Tuesday night stunned with the revelation that DStv is looking into the possibility of breaking up TV channel bundling in South Africa and perhaps giving consumers the choice to pay for only the channels they want under the pay-TV business refers to as the so-called "a la carte" option.
Yolisa Phahle made the revelation on Tuesday night during a radio interview on The Money Show with Bruce Whitfield on 702 and comes as M-Net is celebrating its 30th birthday.
Asked why DStv subscribers can't just pick and pay for the specific channels from MultiChoice's bouquet of available DStv channels, Yolisa Phahle confirmed that "that's something that DStv is actually looking into at the moment".
"More and more and more and more we hear that this is something that consumers really are asking for."
"I guess for us it's the challenge of like trying to sort of work out whether ultimately you're going to end up paying more and people are going to be unhappy because they're only getting 3 channels and they're paying more than they were for 100 TV channels," said Yolisa Phahle.
"The fact of the matter is people are asking the question and somehow we've got to find a way to be able to give people what they want because if we don't, there are options today."
Currently, the existing pay-TV model only work because like a restaurant buffet or a gym, everybody pays a certain price for access to whatever they then want to consume or the equipment they want to use, with the money making it possible to provide everybody using the restaurant or gym a bigger selection.
All pay-TV subscribers essentially cross-subsidise the overall bouquet cost, where TV channels that cost much more and those costing less, are included into segmented packages to make it affordable at certain price points to the consumer.
Yolisa Phahle said "if people want to be able to pay for what they want to watch, then it is incumbent upon us to try and see what we can do to meet that demand".
Big plan to improve additional services
"We have more local channels than international channels if you add up all of our channels across the continent," said Yolisa Phahle, "and they way that we view the future is that we need to increase that local content".
"And the reason we want to increase that local content is because that is what people actually want to see," she said.
"One of our big, big plans is around improving the additional services for people who can't hear as well and also the people who need audio description, so people who can't see that well, audio description is a fantastic way to make sure that they get the full value of the shows they take the trouble of listening to," said Yolisa Phahle.
"One of our big challenges that we actually have to overcome is that that all does take time. So with all of the up to date programming, like Express from the US where we say we're going to have it for viewers within 24 hours of it being broadcast in the US – of it it's our local shows we want to put it on DStv Catch Up – then we have to enter a whole separate workflow."
"But these are things that are very high on our priorities."
Pay-TV model changing fast
Yolisa Phahle said the existing pay-TV model will be looking very different 5 years from now.
"Definitely it will be very different 5 years from now. If we look back, 5 years ago, it was very different. Today, in South Africa for example we have a huge number of new subscribers coming in to DStv."
"We have people from different parts of the country, speaking different languages, who historically were never DStv subscribers. So things are changing very fast," said Yolisa Phahle.
Having to re-invent the wheel
Speaking about how on demand services like DStv Catch Up and the growth in people watching recorded programming instead of live, linear programming is changing the subscription television business model, Yolisa Phahle said "it certainly challenges that".
"We have to accept that and we have to find ways around that. We have so many more subscribers than we had 5 or 10 years ago that I think that sort of, organically, with the scale, the business model is changing anyway."
"Across Africa there's huge potential. There are so many people who technically who will be able to, or who can, afford pay-TV, in relation to that number before, that in many ways, I guess, the subscription element becomes important and the advertising still is very, very important."
"But of course you can’t make the same money when you’re not having commercial breaks or when people are not watching as they used to," said Yolisa Phahle.
"It is a time of great change and it's something which we're not alone in experiencing. Pay-TV operators all over the world are having to re-invent the wheel and in many ways that's a very exciting thing to do."