Tuesday, December 6, 2016

MultiChoice content boss Aletta Alberts on the ways DStv is reducing TV repeats: 'We are improving our product dramatically'.

MultiChoice says that is has heard DStv subscribers' complaints about too many repeats and that the pay-TV provider is "improving our product dramatically" in terms of reducing repeats and adding new content.

The pay-TV provider that runs the DStv pay-TV service in South Africa and across Africa said that it is in the process of cutting down on the number of rebroadcasts across TV channels, scheduling new content where it works best for viewers and finding ways of helping DStv subscribers to find new content.

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Speaking during a conference call, Aletta Alberts, the general manager: content for MultiChoice, said that "we want to say to customers we've heard you and we are making changes".

Aletta Alberts told TVwithThinus that "it's not like repeats will go away but in general we are improving our product dramatically".

MultiChoice, together with its third-party channel suppliers as well as M-Net, is working to bring DStv subscribers less repeats and more new content across the various series channels over weekends, to lessen the overall number of repeats seen across TV channels during the week, and to bring down the repeat rate of movies whilst adding more series and limiting series overlap across channels.

Giving background as to what MultiChoice has been doing given the flurry of complaints from DStv subscribers regarding repeats, Aletta Alberts said that "one of the key issues over the years is that repeats have been at the forefront of our challenges".

"When we talk to suppliers and we talk about repeats and we tell them there's very little tolerance in our territory for repeats, they all say 'Oh yes but that's everywhere', but then we say 'We're just warning you that in this territory our consumers are incredibly vocal about this".

"Then shortly after the channels launch they will basically say 'Yes, you are actually right, we haven't seen a market that's this engaged in the detail, and really as vocal anywhere in the world'. The pay-TV business is basically built on repeats because there's not enough content to just have first-run content on any channel."

"We also know that over the years we've had so many more channels on, and because we have so many more bouquets, that there was an overlap of content on channels, and the repeat rate [of content] went higher."

Aletta Alberts said MultiChoice has done very extensive subscriber research into insights especially around the repeats and rebroadcast of content.

"Over the last 6 months we have been slowly but surely started changing stuff and we're now in full momentum."

"Customers have told us there's lots of repeats; we've done channel reviews, we've done audits on the content and we're in the process of addressing all these issues. We want to say to customers we've heard you and we are making changes".

"There's a lot of exciting stuff happening. It's not like repeats will go away but in general we are improving our product dramatically, and there's a lot of new and exciting stuff that we're very excited about."

"We've already terminated the AMC channel, True Movies and two movie channels because we felt the movies are too old, there's too much duplication.We really looked very, very carefully at everything and made sure that on every tier there's enough value," said Aletta Alberts.

"Also the movie curation and selection on the M-Net Movies channels is better and the films are more recent, and we're now seeing ratings spikes."

"In 2017 there's more exciting things coming in the first four months after our budget's been approved."

More new content over weekends
"In terms of TV series and channels doing series, is that for a very long time M-Net basically bought everything and we still buy everything."

"The output of series from 2010 to 2016 has more than doubled. That means that the international channels we acquire, they still buy second-window series [a programme already seen previously on another channel], but 'we're working very hard in conjunction with them to bring and add new titles rather than four channels buying the same NCIS or The Mentalist".

"We're seeing a huge infusion of new content on channels like The Universal Channel (DStv 117) and FOX (Dstv 125)," said Aletta Alberts.

"The Universal Channel still has NCIS exclusively, then they have Rosewood, Law & Order: SVU, The Librarians, and then all their made-for-TV movies and whatever more they're buying".

"FOX has Pitch, Atlanta, the new upcoming Star, The Walking Dead, Empire's new episodes, The Strain, 24: Legacy, Tyrant, Scream Queens, Legion and Outcast to mention just a few of the things that's new."

"We're working very hard with the channels to try and reduce the overlap of titles," said Aletta Alberts.

"In addition to that the M-Net team has done a fantastic job at repositioning M-Net City (DStv 115) and then the launch of M-Net Family (DStv 162)."

"M-Net City specifically is doing a fantastic job at curating a second-window of the content to lower tiers. Even in the DStv Premium market the channel has improved in the ratings dramatically."

"Then we've terminated the CBS Drama and CBS Action channels to eliminate repeats."

"In general we work with all the channels because we know that binge-watching and super-stacking [the broadcast of multiple episodes of a season] is a big thing, but we also find that if everyone is do that, there's very little new content over the weekend."

"Especially in the economic climate, there's a great need for consumers to actually see new content on some of the channels over weekends, so we are doing a big job to make sure that there's enough new content over weekends on the series channels for our consumers".

Growing in-season stacking rights
MultiChoice is also aggressively growing its catalogue of what is known as "in-season stacking rights" where every episode of a current season that's been broadcast becomes available, and remains available, to a subscriber to watch at any time to help them get into and to catch up with a particular show.

"View-on-demand is becoming as important as linear broadcast for us. On DStv Catch Up Plus we are now stacking in-season box sets where we have rights, and where we don't have that we are really acquiring those aggressively if they haven't been bought by other over-the-top (OTT) players," said Aletta Alberts.

MultiChoice already has deals in place with HBO, Disney BBC Worldwide and ITV Studios Global Entertainment for in-season stacking rights for DStv.

Less repeat stacking on doc and lifestyle channels
Aletta Alberts said documentary and lifestyle channels have been ahead of the curve in terms of the "binge-viewing" phenomena, where these channels offer up multiple repeat episodes of a season or seasons on certain days - mostly over weekends.

 "We have done full reviews on all the channels that do stacking over weekends. There's been these very, very large stacks. So it might be one show in the morning, one show in the afternoon and one show at night."

"It basically means that if you don't like Pawn Stars or you don't like Gold Diggers, then basically you can't watch that channel. So we're working with those channels and since December you'll see improvements on the stacking."

"Where it works the channels will retain it but maybe in smaller blocks and other channels might stack but it might not be the same episodes or titles, it might be a slot to give more variety."

Less Ancient Aliens and old Top Gear
Aletta Alberts said MultiChoice is also aware that some channels have scheduled some TV shows too excessively and that the pay-TV platform is working with channels to ensure a better balance of titles.

"We know that some titles on some channels have been scheduled excessively, like Top Gear [on BBC Brit], which obviously still delivers for BBC Worldwide huge ratings but customers do get very disgruntled because they see these titles that just don't go away."

"It's really to trying to find a balance and introducing new content or repeating it in such a way for customers that it's not in 20 places on the schedule."

"Consumers are very vocal about the History (DStv 186) channel and the fact that it's playing less and less what we call 'real history' and titles that don't work."

"Their strategy in the United States - we've seen push-back - so they haven't recommissioned things like Duck Dynasty and those kinds of things because Duck Dynasty simply doesn't not make sense on a History channel."

"So you're going to see the introduction of a block of history at 19:20 on the History schedule and then over weekend they're going to start doing event history which we're very excited about".

"National Geographic (DStv 181) is currently doing MARS, in 2017 BBC Earth (DStv 184) is doing Planet Earth II, and then the return of Strictly Come Dancing UK and local content like The Great South African Bake Off [on BBC Lifestyle, DStv 174] scheduled over weekends."

Marked 'NEW'
"We're working on indicators on the DStv electronic programme guide (EPG) where we're going to say 'new' when an episode or a show is new to the territory," said Aletta Alberts which is another thing MultiChoice is doing to help subscribers to discover new content.

"So it's won't be things like when NCIS: Los Angeles [that is first-run on M-Net] is the first time on The Universal Channel, we won't brand it as 'new', but when it is on M-Net we will will brand it as new."

"But when The Universal Channel has Rosewood then that will be branded as new. So new to the territory."

"Channels like The Universal Channel and FOX and TLC Entertainment and the documentary channels they now do on-screen an indicator saying 'new episode' or 'brand new' all to help our customers," said Aletta Alberts.