Monday, June 14, 2021

MultiChoice: We won't add on SABC TV Licence fees to DStv subscribers' bills and collect licensing fees on behalf of South Africa's public broadcaster.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice is adamant that the struggling South African public broadcaster's ongoing problems with trying to collect SABC TV Licence fees is a problem of the SABC's own doing, with MultiChoice that says as a private pay-TV operator it is opposed against plans to tack on SABC TV Licence fees on DStv subscriptions and simply won't do it.

With only 24% - a falling percentage - of TV households still bothering to pay for a SABC TV Licence, the South Africa public broadcaster and the country's department of communications and digital technologies, are desperate to try and dig the struggling SABC out of its financial black hole through finding new additional income streams.

Part of the aggressive new plan contained in draft legislation from communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, is to enlarge the fishing net of available SABC TV Licence revenue beyond the public broadcaster's own struggling collection fees division.

Changes to legislation would make private companies like pay-TV providers, as well as local and global video streaming services with a presence in South Africa, responsible for ensuring that their customers have a valid TV licence or to tack it on as a fee - whether those consumers watch the SABC or not.

Owners of tablets and laptops will also be forced to have and pay a SABC TV Licence whether they watch or consumer SABC content or not.

Yolande van Biljon, SABC CFO, told parliament in February that the SABC sits with a massive 76% SABC TV Licence "evasion rate", meaning that 76% of South African TV households that the public broadcaster are aware of and send a SABC TV Licence bill to, do not bother to pay their annual licence fee. 

Only 24% are still paying with the rate that keeps declining as the country's overall TV watching universe expands. 

Besides the SABC's TV Licence database there are millions more South African TV households with one or more TV sets that the SABC is not aware of and that don't have licences.

Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group CEO, in the pay-TV operator's investors' call on Friday following the release of its latest annual financial report for the year ending 31 March 2021, responded to a question regarding SABC TV Licence fees and said that MultiChoice "can't be collecting for the SABC".

"Our position is simply very clear: We can't be held responsible for collecting money on behalf of the SABC. The SABC itself needs to find a way to collect such monies."

"We further made it clear that we think this is an old way of thinking around a public service mandate. There are much more better ways of [finding] public service funding that we have seen all over the world where people have moved away from a device into a public service contribution wherein tax payers are able to contribute a little bit and the public broadcaster is able to survive," Calvo Mawela said.

MultiChoice: '8 out of 10 DStv subscribers who switch to Netflix keep us'; lack of rugby broadcasts the big reason customers are abandoning DStv Premium.

by Thinus Ferreira

When a premium DStv subscriber switches to video streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, 8 out of 10 subscribers decide to keep their DStv subscription as well although they might downgrade to a lower package MultiChoice's new market research has found, with the lack of live rugby broadcasts that is one of the biggest reasons why the DStv Premium subscriber base keeps shrinking.

On Thursday last week MultiChoice released the results for its financial year ending 31 March 2021, with the report that notes that another 100 000 premium DStv subscribers - DStv Premium and DStv Compact Plus - have abandoned its top-end offering that they no longer see as offering enough value for money.

Although MultiChoice's overall pay-TV subscriber base grew thanks to an increase in its mass-market segment, its top-end customer segment in South Africa saw further erosion from 1.5 million to 1.4 million DStv subscribers - representing another 8% decrease in an ongoing decline in its most valuable subscribers.

The result is that MultiChoice's average revenue per user (ARPU) continues to decline for its customer base that brings in the most money, with the monthly ARPU of premium DStv customers that slid further from R588 to R580.

MultiChoice now has 20.9 million active subscribers of which 8.93 million (43%) are in South Africa - that remains the pay-TV operator's country with the largest subscriber base - and with 11.93 million (57%) combined in the rest of Africa (RoA).

"In terms of DStv Premium subscribers what we have seen is that we have customers who come down to the lower bouquets but at the same time we have customers who move on to the online platforms," Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group CEO, said on Friday in the pay-TV operator's bi-annual investors' call.

"Those DStv subscribers who move on to the over-the-top (OTT) platforms - what our research has given us - is that 8 out of 10 of those that move on to the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video also remain on the DStv platform, which means that they stay in the lower bouquets."

Calvo Mawela noted that rugby broadcasts are one of the biggest drivers of DStv Premium uptake and that the loss of rugby because of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is a very big reason behind the ongoing decline in its top-end subscribers.

"What we've seen is that as a result of the lack of rugby, you see people coming down, but as soon as rugby comes back, you see people going up."

"Because this past year has been a very difficult year for rugby - that's why we are seeing a significant number of DStv subscribers who have downgraded from DStv Premium as compared to the previous year."

Coronavirus: More TV and radio presenters struggling with Covid-19 during South Africa's third wave of the pandemic.

by Thinus Ferreira

More South African TV and radio presenters are testing positive for Covid-19 with the country that is officially experiencing a third wave of infections, with Mark Pilgrim, Toks van der Linde and Ettienne Ludick who are fighting against the coronavirus.

The radio DJ and voice artist Mark Pilgrim on social media revealed that he's got Covid with the words "Oh dear. It got me." In a public note to his immune system, Mark Pilgrim says "You've got this buddy! We've been through a lot together over the years. You kicked cancer's butt and also saved us after a heart attack."

"Now you're being challenged again and you're showing your strength once more! You're my heavyweight boxing champ and you're fighting so hard. I'm so proud of you."

The former Springbok rugby player Toks van der Linde who is a presenter of Friday night's Toks & Tjops on kykNET (DStv 144) revealed that he has also tested positive for Covid-19 whilst on holiday in the Maldives with his wife, Carol.

On Facebook, he said "It's Sunday morning in Baros, Maldives. A holiday that was a fairy tale has now become interesting. I'm Covid-positive. Please pray for us. This virus isn't a joke - believe me."

On Twitter, Toks said that he is "not in hospital just isolated on Baros island".

Netwerk24 reports that the radio and TV presenter Ettienne Ludick who is a presenter on SuperSport Blitz and of InTune on the SABC's Afrikaans radio station RSG, also tested positive for Covid-19. SuperSport says that it tests all staff on a weekly basis.

 Besides the RSG presenter Amore Bekker who is also sick with Covid, the RSG station manager Louise Jooste now also has Covid.

Shaleen Surtie-Richards’ funeral: 'An icon beloved by the people but abandoned by the system,' says friend Rif'at Browers; implores arts minister Nathi Mthethwa to launch a fund to support South Africa's suffering artists.

by Thinus Ferreira

The iconic South African actress Shaleen Surtie-Richards was beloved by the people but abandoned by the system said one of her closest friends at her funeral, who implored the South African government and arts minister Nathi Mthethwa who sat in the funeral chapel to urgently launch a fund to look after the country's suffering artists.

Shaleen Surtie-Richards (66) unexpectedly died a week ago with her coffin on Sunday afternoon that was draped in the South African flag during the Category 2 official provincial funeral that was broadcast live on SABC News, Newzroom Afrika and eNCA.

The chapel at the Durbanville Memorial Park was filled with red and white flowers, including candles that Estée Lauder donated as a reminder of Shaleen's love of perfume, and even the Shaleen Surtie-Richards Rose that was flown in especially by Ludwig's Roses for the funeral.

The funeral was attended by Hannes van Wyk, presenter of Kwêla and Hannes aan Huis on kykNET (DStv 144), as well as Karen Meiring, M-Net director for kykNET channels.

"Shaleen was loved by the people but she was abandoned by the system," said Shaleen Surtie-Richards' longtime friend Rif'at Browers in a moving tribute.

Addressing South Africa's minister of sport, arts and culture directly who sat in the chapel, Rif'at Browers said "In this vein, I speak to minister Nathi Mthethwa and I plead with you: Please let us launch a fund that will ensure the longevity of all South African people in the arts and entertainment industry. I'm open to any form of discussion, and on any platform."

Patricia de Lille, minister of public works and infrastructure, who wasn't in attendance on Sunday but whose tribute was read out loud, said that Shaleen Surtie-Richards "was a vanguard who paved a way before and after Apartheid for people of all races - but specifically for people of colour".

"It is sad that her death had laid bare the struggles of South African artists and the struggles that they have to endure later in life," said Patricia de Lille.

"Many people knew and loved Shaleen but very few how she suffered but she always had the pride of being fearlessly independent."

"For the industry, Shaleen's death and struggles in recent years should be a wake-up call to stand up and protect the arts and our artists to ensure that all artists, their talents and their rights are protected and respected and that they are well taken care of in their later life and before and after retirement."

"The industry is poorer without her but richer because of her contribution."

Nathi Mthethwa said that "Shaleen has taught us more about ourselves - what makes us truly South Africans; what makes us truly human".

Called the industry's "darkest secret", South African performers are still not receiving residuals for rebroadcasts of their TV and film work like what happens in other countries.

After years of getting the long-stalled Performers Protection Amendment Bill (PPAB) to parliament that would ensure that South African performers are paid residuals for the rebroadcast of their work on television, president Cyril Ramaphosa refused to sign the PPAB.

After the bill had languished on his desk for 15 months, Ramaphosa has now sent the bill back to South Africa's National Assembly.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Namibia's NBC News removes Elmarie Kapunda and Jessica Kaimu from their on-air roles indefinitely after cringeworthy fight with both to undergo 'on-air training'; says they won't 'be dismissed from the services of the NBC'.

by Thinus Ferreira

Namibia's National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) has removed both NBC News anchor Elmarie Kapunda and sports presenter Jessica Kaimu from the airwaves indefinitely following their eye-popping and extremely awkward on-air spat (see it here) during a live broadcast that got seen by millions.

The bizarre on-air fight between Elmarie Kapunda and Jessica Kaimu happened during a live news broadcast on NBC's Namibia News programme when Elmarie Kapunda introduced and switched over for sports news to Jessica Kaimu but angered her colleague when she dared to say too much for Jessica's liking.

"No, you're not going to do that. You're just going to greet me, and say, 'Take it away'," Jessica snipped.

Elmarie Kapunda deadpanned: "Jessica, we are live", after which both just stared silently until a technical director cut to commercial.

The cringe-worthy on-air moment was mocked and re-enacted by SABC News (DStv 404) presenters Sakina Kamwendo and Vaylen Kirtley (see it here) a day after the video clip went viral. 

Lazarus Jacobs, the chairperson of NBC's board, initially lied to CNN International, and said that Elmarie Kapunda and Jessica Kaimu wouldn't be removed from their positions. By Thursday they were gone from the airwaves on NBC although they remain employed.

Both presenters would apparently be undergoing further "on-air training".

Namibia's New Era daily newspaper reported that Namibia's NBC has dropped Elmarie Kapunda and Jessica Kaima indefinitely from their presenting roles. NBC management and senior staffers at the broadcaster saw the incident as "highly embarrassing".

NBC isn't responding to media enquiries.

NBC on social media in a curt statement said that "Due to numerous queries being sent to the NBC regarding the matter of the two presenters Elmarie Kapunda and Jessica Kaimu the NBC would like to officially set the record straight".

"These two colleagues are part and parcel of the NBC family. At no point was there ever talk of dismissing these colleagues from the services of the NBC. Their employment thus as anchors at the NBC is intact."

Shaleen Surtie-Richards on her money struggles in last TV interview: 'I just pray very hard that I won't get ill'.

by Thinus Ferreira

Shaleen Surtie-Richards (66) who unexpectedly died on Monday said that she openly wanted to talk about her financial troubles in one of her final TV interviews before she died and that she went through the "deepest, deepest waters" with most people and performers too ashamed to talk this struggle.

The iconic actress with a professional career stretching over 3 decades, unexpectedly died on Monday morning in a guest house in Edgemeade, Cape Town, where she just completed a few weeks of filming on a recurring role in kykNET's Arendsvlei telenovela.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday approved the request for a Category 2 Special Provincial Funeral for Shaleen Surtie-Richards. Shaleen Surtie-Richards' funeral will take place on Sunday, 13 June at 14:30 at the Durbanville Memorial Park in Cape Town.

The SABC didn't respond to a media enquiry on Friday asking whether SABC News (DStv 404) would broadcast or cover it. 

Newzroom Afrika (DStv 405) said that it would be covering the funeral proceedings on Sunday and that the news channel "We will be dipping in and out from 14:30 to cover it".

eNCA (DStv 403) spokesperson Sam Dube couldn't confirm whether the channel would possibly cover the funeral and said that "information on the broadcasting of Shaleen Surtie-Richard’s funeral will be shared on channel".

Known for her iconic roles like Fiela in Fiela se Kind and Nenna in Egoli, Shaleen Surtie-Richards in an interview on Hannes Aan Huis on kykNET (DStv 144) that was broadcast this week, said that she "wanted the opportunity to speak about her financial struggles openly" and that she had gone through "the deepest, deepest waters".

With the interview done inside her home, she told interviewer Hannes van Wyk that "I sat here without a cent to my name. My house - they wanted to put on the market. To tell you the truth my house was almost sold out from under me".

"I had nothing, nothing, nothing. And I thought: I'm going to talk about this. Not for people to feel sorry for me, but for people to know that a lot of us are sitting with this problem."

"People are too ashamed to say anything," Shaleen Surtie-Richards explained. "I haven't had food in my house. It was so bad there wasn't any food in the house." 

She also lost her medical aid. "I couldn't pay it any further and they took it away. So at this stage I just have to pray very hard that I won't get ill because I don't even have a medical aid anymore. I have nothing. I still owe on my water as well. I mean they don't cut it otherwise I'd be there as well."

Shaleen Surtie-Richards explained how work had dried up for a year. "You're paid according to the productions that you do. And if there isn't a production, there isn't money."

"I'm sitting here with a million awards behind my name that now absolutely means nothing to me."

Called the industry's "darkest secret", South African performers are still not receiving residuals for rebroadcasts of their TV and film work like what happens in other countries, with president Cyril Ramaphosa that after 15 months refused to sign the long-stalled Performers Protection Amendment Bill that has now been referred back to South Africa's National Assembly.

Friday, June 11, 2021

kykNET’s Saturday edition of Ontbytsake will be a special tribute to Shaleen Surtie-Richards: 'We tried not to cry,' says presenter Eloise Cupido.

by Thinus Ferreira

"We tried not to cry and to all hold it together," says Eloise Cupido, presenter of Ontbytsake on kykNET with the show that will do a very special tribute broadcast to Shaleen Surtie-Richards (66) all through Saturday's edition tomorrow morning following the unexpected death of the iconic actress on Monday.

Shaleen Surtie-Richards was booked and scheduled to appear on Ontbytsake this Saturday anyway when her untimely death on Monday sent shockwaves through the production crew and group of presenters who were looking forward to talking to her for her 7th time on the show.

"She would have been our guest in-studio, in person but Ontbytsake had to change it into a special tribute show," Eloise Cupido tells TVwithThinus just after the recording of Saturday's episode had wrapped on Friday afternoon.

"Viewers can look forward to a lot of video clips from all of the different series and films in which Shaleen Surtie-Richards had appeared over the years as well as clips from 2017 when she last visited us in-studio at Ontbytsake."

"My son was born just two months earlier before she visited us last so he was at work with me and we had such a great time with Shaleen. She spoke about so many things and we have about two or three clips from her last Ontbytsake visit."

Well-known friends of Shaleen Surtie-Richards also visit Ontbytsake to reminisce about Shaleen and to share their memories and what they think her contribution and impact was on South Africa's TV and film industry. 

"It's exceptionally beautifully done I think," says Eloise Cupido.

Special guests include Vinette Ebrahim, Kim Cloete, Gavin Prins and Lizz Meiring who will be talking about the impact she's had personally and meant to them and the film critic Leon van Nierop weighs in about what her impact was from an actors' and film perspective.

"Leon van Nierop is exceptionally insightful on Saturday's episode of Ontbytsake to distil the essence of Shaleen Surtie-Richards' impact on South Africa and whether we will ever see someone else who could fill her shoes and it's stunning."

"We all tried to - as far as possible - not to sit and cry. It was very difficult because Shaleen was a larger-than-life person. We tried to remember and highlight all of the aspects of her existence and humanity and to bring tribute to her life and career."

"Kim Cloete speaks in the programme to how all people of colour who entered South Africa's showbiz and who had contact with her - how Shaleen played a mentoring role. She provided perspective, she provided guidance. Shaleen didn't hold back to tell you when you've messed up and she also didn't hold back to praise you when she thought you did something great."

"It just underscored yet again how she was the same toward everyone. Everyone who talks on Ontbytsake knew her personally in their personal lives and visited each other in their homes. It's not just some superficial - it's people who worked with her and who were friends in her home." 

Ontbytsake is Saturdays on kykNET (DStv 144) from 07:30 with the week's same edition that starts 2 hours later on kykNET & Kie (DStv 145)

MultiChoice sheds another 100 000 premium DStv subscribers and with it comes further top-channels ratings share erosion - but that doesn't mean advertisers will pay less to reach these dwindling but sought-after viewers.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice has shed another 100 000 highly-prized premium DStv subscribers over the past year with customers who no longer see its expensive top-end bouquet as offering enough value for money as they switch to video streaming - an exodus that's also having an ongoing negative impact on the TV ratings share of top-bundled channels like M-Net, Discovery Channel, SuperSport Grandstand and kykNET.

Ironically, the top-channel ratings erosion due to a smaller percentage of premium DStv subscribers having and watching these channels doesn't mean that advertisers will be paying less to reach this ever-decreasing share of sought-after viewers.

MultiChoice continues to lose its most-valuable DStv subscribers - those who pay the most for the most expensive packages in order to access premium entertainment and exclusive sports channels - with the ongoing churn that led to another 100 000 DStv Premium and DStv Compact Plus subscribers who have abandoned these bouquets.

MultiChoice released its latest financial report for the year ending 31 March 2021 that indicates that although its overall pay-TV subscriber base grew thanks to an increase in its mass-market segment, its top-end customer segment in South Africa saw further erosion from 1.5 million to 1.4 million DStv subscribers - representing an 8% decrease.

MultiChoice's mid-market, comprising DStv Compact and DStv Commercial bouquets, grew by 3% from 2.9 to 3 million subscribers. 

The biggest growth came in the so-called mass-market bracket: DStv Family, DStv, Access and DStv EasyView bouquets.

This subscriber segment increased by 14% and roughly 600 000 subscribers in South Africa from 4 million to 4.6 million subscribers. 

MultiChoice now has 20.9 million active subscribers of which 8.93 million (43%) are in South Africa - that remains the pay-TV operator's country with the largest subscriber base - and with 11.93 million (57%) combined in the rest of Africa (RoA).

ARPU: Top end DStv subscriber revenue keeps falling
While MultiChoice is earning more revenue due to the ongoing growth of its overall DStv and GOtv subscriber base, MultiChoice continues to see a slide in what it makes per individual premium subscriber.

A breakout of MultiChoice's ARPU, or "average revenue per user" from within its latest financial report indicates that the ARPU of its premium subscriber segment taken over the past year shrank further from the 18% that it represented in the 2020 financial year, to 16% in the 2021 financial year.

ARPU from DStv Compact subscribers also slightly decreased from 34% to 33%. For the first time, ARPU from MultiChoice's combined mass-market segment represents more than half of the total - up from 48% in 2020 to 51% in the reported financial year.

Taking the DStv money shot from the point of average monthly subscription fee revenue, the ARPU derived from premium DStv subscribers fell further from R588 per month to R580 - a 1% decrease. The monthly DStv Compact ARPU increased by R3 from R298 to R301 - an increase of 1%.

The monthly ARPU of MultiChoice's mass-market subscribers grew from R88 per month to R95 - an increase of 9%.

Top-channels ratings pressure
Although not mentioned in MultiChoice's financial report, the 8% loss of top-end DStv subscribers translates to yet another 100 000 South African TV households who gave up access to premium TV channels ranging from M-Net and kykNET, to SuperSport Grandstand, Discovery Channel and others.

It means that these exclusively packaged channels are coming under ongoing and increasing TV ratings pressure.

These premium-positioned channels are losing viewers and ratings share - and at a much faster rate with their premium content offering that also costs more to produce - than what lower-tiered TV channels are gaining viewers with content that are not just cheaper to make but that's also the premium content that's later cycled down and scheduled across lower packages.

There is an in-built irony here in that the ratings share erosion of the top-end channels on MultiChoice's offering doesn't yet matter so much because of two still-valid-for-now reasons. 

Firstly, as a pay-TV operator, MultiChoice is less dependent on and less worried about ratings (and the ad income tied to those ratings) since its main source of income is derived from monthly subscriber fees that are paid irrespective of whether an individual watches or whether the TV and decoder is never switched on in a month. 

Secondly, DStv Media Sales spot pricing for TV commercials (can) remain stable and even increase despite decreases in audience share, since ironically the dwindling top-end audience makes reaching them even more important and desirable to certain advertisers.

To reach that extremely valuable, high-spending consumer segment - although it's a DStv viewer group getting smaller - advertisers are actually willing to spend the same, if not more, in highly-targeted ad campaigns to reach them with their commercial messages.

M-Net’s Survivor SA Immunity Island once again swarmed by pirate viewers.

by Thinus Ferreira

It took just two days after the broadcast of the first episode of the new 8th season of Survivor South Africa to once again become the country's most sought-after TV show with episodes of Survivor SA: Immunity Island that, like previous seasons, are once again pirated and illegally shared and watched by thousands of viewers worldwide.

M-Net is warning people not to steal the content and that illegally uploading, downloading, sharing and watching Survivor SA episodes anywhere in South Africa except than through DStv is damaging the local South African TV and film industry.

It took less than 48 hours after the premiere episode on 3 June of Survivor SA: Immunity Island for a high-definition version ripped from M-Net (DStv 101), as well as a lower quality version, ripped from 10play that is the video streaming service of Australia's Network Ten, to appear online on 5 June.

Survivor SA: Immunity Island, produced by Afrokaans, has been torrented and directly downloaded thousands of times already.

In online message boards - with some of the conversations that have been shut down and deleted - Survivor superfans from across the globe and in South Africa ask where they can find and illegally download or get torrent links to ripped copies of Survivor SA: Immunity Island episodes.

The same happened with previous seasons of Survivor SA, of which illegal torrents and links to episodes can also still be found online, with the show that consistently ranks as the most sought-after South African television production that viewers globally want to see and follow.

While the illegal sharing and downloading is an added bonus boost for the profile and exposure of the show and its in-show sponsors and advertisers, as well as South Africa's Eastern Cape province that helped with filming location access in the latest seasonbroadcasters - including M-Net - frown on the illegal sharing of its content that damages the TV industry ecosystem where channels lose out on ratings and revenue and content creators who earn money through selling productions are short-changed in the long run.

The latest season of Survivor SA has been trending on social media for both the past two Thursdays nights as a conversation topic although it is shown on M-Net as one of MultiChoice's most exclusive TV channels that is only available to DStv Premium subscribers.

In response to a media enquiry, M-Net says that it maintains the same stance as per previous seasons and that ripping and illegally sharing episodes of Survivor SA is wrong and damaging to the TV industry.

"Survivor is a global phenomenon and in recent years the South African version has gained vast popularity among fans abroad. M-Net is aware of the illegal downloading and sharing of the series, and strongly condemns it," M-Net tells TVwithThinus.

"Piracy negatively impacts the development of the local television and film industries and undermines the investment of broadcasters and sponsors. We encourage viewers to report illegal downloads or streaming to Bertha.Sekgothe (at symbol)".

Thursday, June 10, 2021

MultiChoice coins it during Covid and grows to 20.9 million subscribers although it continues to shed top-end DStv customers jumping to video streaming.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice continues to coin it during Covid and saw an ongoing surge in mass-market DStv subscriber growth over the past year with 7% year-on-year growth to 20.9 million active subscribers, although its base of DStv Premium subscribers continues to plunge as these top-end customers are switching away to online video streaming.

The MultiChoice Group released its results for the financial year that ended at the end of March 2021 on Thursday, noting that it grew its 90-day active linear pay-TV subscriber base by another 1.4 million DStv and GOtv subscribers of which 8.93 million (43%) are in South Africa that remains its country with the largest subscriber base, and with 11.93 million (57%) in the rest of Africa (RoA).

Of the 1.36 million new subscribers, about 500 000 were in South Africa, representing 6% growth year-on-year in South Africa.

In South Africa, the base of DStv Premium and DStv Compact Plus subscribers has plunged another 8% from 1.5 million to 1.4 million subscribers. 

The mid-market comprising DStv Compact and DStv Commercial bouquets grew by 3% from 2.9 to 3 million subscribers. 

The biggest growth came in the so-called mass-market bracket - DStv Family, DStv, Access and DStv EasyView bouquets - that increased by 14% from 4 million to 4.6 million subscribers. 

In the rest of Africa DStv's top-end subscribers dropped 10% from 1.2 million subscribers to roughly 900 000.

Similar to Britain's Sky pay-TV operator, MultiChoice and M-Net are pivoting to a new content strategy in South Africa as well as in the rest of Africa (ROA).

The Randburg-based pay-TV operator continues to lessen its spending on acquiring international content and is boosting its production spend on local content and African originals in an attempt to differentiate its content offering from global streamers like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others like Disney+, Paramount+ and HBO Max that are not yet, but might launch their subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services on the African continent in future.

Despite production stoppages and travel restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, MultiChoice and M-Net produced 19% more content than during the previous financial year - a total of 4 567 hours. MultiChoice's total local content library now exceeds 62 000 hours, with 42% of the pay-TV operator's general entertainment spend that was on local content.

MultiChoice grew its revenue by 4% to R53.4 billion. 

"The Covid-19 pandemic taught us more about the art of the possible," says Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group CEO, in a statement. "We started the year confronted with severe disruptions to our programming schedules, bleak macro-economic forecasts for many of our markets and sharply weaker currencies. In the face of these challenges, our teams rallied together – this helped us deliver on all our key performance metrics."

MultiChoice says that to help manage US dollar-based costs, two major international content agreements and several smaller ones were renegotiated into South African rand (ZAR). 

MultiChoice also launched 11 new local language channels across sub-Saharan Africa, completed 5 new co-productions with global content producers and sold 16 of its series to international buyers.

MultiChoice renewed the rights to the English Premier League (EPL) and UEFA Champions League and also secured broadcasting rights to the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. On the international content front MultiChoice says that it maintains mutually beneficial relationships with its studio partners, and has successfully added access to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube on its DStv Explora Ultra decoder.

MultiChoice says that both advertising and commercial subscription revenues were significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Advertising revenues were down 34% year-on-year to R0.6 billion at the interim stage but recovered well in the second half as Covid restrictions eased, ending 11% down year-on-year at R2.8 billion.

Similarly, commercial subscription revenues started to recover in the latter part of the financial year but finished 35% lower than the prior year. The hospitality industry is expected to take some time to return to normal trading.

MultiChoice says that Connected Video users on the DStv app and Showmax continue to grow as online consumption increases. According to MultiChoice local content is also a key differentiator on Showmax, with local content viewership that is up significantly during the financial year and with 4 out of the top 5 titles on Showmax that are local productions. 

A record number of Showmax originals were launched during the year, including the first Kenyan and Nigerian original series.

"We are enjoying good momentum and are excited about our prospects for the year ahead," says Calvo Mawela.

"Our advertising business is recovering, and we have plans to further enhance our entertainment ecosystem. We look forward to an exceptional slate of local content and the meaningful return of live sport as we catch up on the events missed in this past year."

"We are however cognisant of ongoing consumer pressure in what remains an uncertain Covid-19 environment, continued macro-economic volatility in our markets and the need to absorb deferred content costs in the new year."

"We will look to counter potential headwinds through tight cost control and by driving operational excellence. Our strong balance sheet positions us well to withstand these uncertainties and deliver value to our customers and shareholders."