Monday, February 22, 2021

It's 2021. After MultiChoice's latest price hike has DStv become too expensive? A TV expert unpacks the questions that you should actually be asking.

by Thinus Ferreira

After MultiChoice announced it's latest price hike that will start April 2021 has DStv become too expensive? What is DStv doing wrong and right? And is it offering value for money? I asked a TV expert to help you to decide.

MultiChoice has announced its annual DStv price hike for 2021 that will come into effect from April 2021 with Simon Camerer, MultiChoice Group chief operating officer (COO), who said that MultiChoice is doing 2021 price increases below inflation and that "on a weighted average basis, you're looking at a 2.4% increase".

However, it has since also come to light that DStv's most loyal subscribers - legacy M-Net subscribers  - are getting a massive 11.49% price hike from April 2021 - far larger than inflation. 

From April DStv Premium subscribers will pay R829, DStv Compact Plus will pay R539, DStv Compact will cost R409, DStv Family subscribers will pay R295, and DStv Access will increase to R115. 

The DStv Access fee increases to R105 and a DStv BoxOffice rentals will now cost R40.

With DStv Premium costing R829 per month from April, it's now possible for video content consumers to build their own "connected-home home-made" TV bundle that would actually be cheaper.

In South Africa a DStv Premium subscriber can - for the same amount of money and with change left for some popcorn - now get an Openserve uncapped 10 Mbps fibre line from an internet service provider (ISP) like Telkom for R399 per month, and subscribe to Netflix South Africa (R99), Amazon Prime Video (R88.39), Showmax (R99) and even Apple TV+ (R85) for a combined bundle-cost of R770.39.

Is MultiChoice therefore pricing itself out of the market? Has DStv become too expensive? What is the Randburg-based pay-TV operator doing wrong and what is DStv doing right? 

TVwithThinus asked the TV expert Tashi Tagg, editor of TVSA, these questions and for some insight to help South African consumers navigate the increasingly tricky and treacherous pay-TV and video streaming service waters.

So, first up, the popular question-statement heard around the braai and dinner tables: Has DStv become too expensive?

"What's affordable for some is not affordable for others, what's expensive for some is not expensive for others? So, the idea of saying 'DStv, is it too expensive' - what are you comparing it to?" says Tashi.

"People have to pay for their entertainment just like you have to pay for anything else - you have to. And it's very important for the entertainment industry that people do pay."

"So this idea of 'what is too expensive' is a question that is actually impossible to answer as an individual because it really does depend on your individual budget and also what it is that someone wants to get out of their entertainment."

"You can't just say 'oh that is too expensive'. In our current economic climate in South Africa everything is expensive! In terms of the DStv Premium price, the right and better question to ask is: 'Are you getting enough from your pay-TV subscription that keeps you happy?" says Tashi Tagg.

"Have you got enough to watch? Is your PVR full? Do you want sports? Is it the case that you can't watch what you get on DStv anywhere else? Then no, it's not expensive. If you find that there's nothing on DStv, well then it's a waste of money."

Time to reinvent DStv packages
Asked for what she thinks MultiChoice is doing wrong, Tashi says "I've always thought that this multiple division of various DStv packages is a problem for numerous reasons".

"Number one, it's confusing. Number two, when people sign up for a specific DStv package they're never sure if MultiChoice and M-Net will keep a show on the channels available on that package or not."

"Number three, if you don't have DStv Premium you always feel like you're missing out on something which isn't nice because you don't want to be paying and be left feeling like you don't have everything."

"An example of this is like what happened with The Real Housewives of Durban recently that M-Net first announced as coming to 1Magic and then the announcement a week later that it's now only on Showmax for which you need to pay for data to watch it."

"I think this constant changing of shows from package to package, channel to channel, and the multiple packages - I think it is time to reinvent that," she says. "For me, the position would be to really simplify the DStv packages."

"MultiChoice needs to make a general entertainment package, and then a sports add-on," she suggests.

"So you pay the big bucks if you want that SuperSport and ESPN sports, and everybody pays the same for the entertainment package. That way everybody wins because it means that everybody can watch the shows on DStv."

"In this day and age of social media where some people are watching one season of a show on one channel, and some people are watching another older season on another channel and now you're all talking about it - it doesn't fit."

"The way in which the packages are structured is what MultiChoice is doing wrong - it could be overhauled to be made much simpler products," Tashi says.

"Just look at what happens when higher-tiered TV channels are made available for a specific period to lower packages like DStv Family or whatever - I mean the ratings soar. There's like a boom in DStv viewership and it just makes for a very exciting environment when those numbers come out and there are so many more DStv subscribers watching the same content together at the same time".

PVR perfection 
About what's good about MultiChoice and what DStv is doing right, Tashi Tagg says that the personal video recorder (PVR) is "really good".

"It's good, it's good - the ability to record, the fact that you don't need to have any internet for it, the fact that you have the advantage of linear TV watching and that you can watch as you want".

She also says that "DStv Catch Up is great - the fact that you can watch on-demand content on any device if you do want to use your data to watch - that's good. I think that that technology is really unique and really very valuable. For a real TV lover it's really, really valuable". 

TVwithThinus did an interview request and asked MultiChoice if it is possible to talk to Simon Camerer about DStv's latest price increases after he did interviews with three media outlets about the latest round of price hikes. 

Benedict Maaga, MultiChoice spokesperson said that Simon Camerer is unfortunately not available at this time for an interview.