by Thinus Ferreira
After a month and a half on shelves, MultiChoice is dropping the price of its expensive new DStv Explora Ultra decoder in South Africa and also lowering decoder and monthly subscription fees across Africa, although the pay-TV operator's annual 2021 price hike for subscribers looms that will be announced later this month.
Specifically citing the debilitating economic impact that the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has had on African consumers and saying it's cutting prices to help them, MultiChoice is lowering DStv and GOtv decoder prices, as well as monthly subscription fees in countries across sub-Saharan Africa.
MultiChoice Nigeria is cutting the price on decoders as well as certain subscription fees from 1 February, while MultiChoice Uganda has slashed the price of a GOtv decoder and subscription set by a whopping 23% from yesterday.
Martin Mabutho, MultiChoice Nigeria's chief customer officer, on Friday told the media in a virtual briefing that DStv is slashing decoder and subscription prices to try and lessen the economic impact of Covid-19 on customers and that it is a reflection of the pay-TV provider's commitment to making quality entertainment more accessible.
Jonah Wegoye, MultiChoice Uganda's head of sales, told the media that "The slow recovery rate of the country’s economy from the recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the recently concluded election period has compelled us at MultiChoice Uganda to consider a price reduction in a bid to ease our customers' burden and cushion them against financial distress".
While MultiChoice is increasing DStv subscription fees in Angola from 4 February, it is slashing subscription fees in notable markets like Ghana, Kenya and Zambia as well, saying that "in the most challenging of times, our priority is to ensure everyone has access to the best viewing entertainment at a price they can afford".
While MultiChoice South Africa hasn't announced any subscription price cut it quietly lowered the price of its expensive new DStv Explora Ultra decoder.
MultiChoice launched the new DStv Explora Ultra decoder in mid-November 2020 and gives DStv subscribers who want to use it access to streaming services like Netflix SA, Amazon Prime Video and Showmax, with more subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services that will be added over time.
MultiChoice launched the DStv Explora Ultra at a recommended retail price of R2 499 for just the decoder, and R3 699 when it includes installation. That compares to the DStv Explora 3 that can be bought for R999, or around R 1499 including installation.
MultiChoice told TVwithThinus in response to a media enquiry on Monday that it has now dropped the DStv Explora Ultra price by R200 - an indication that MultiChoice has now started subsidising this decoder.
"MultiChoice can confirm that the recommended retail price of the DStv Explora Ultra decoder has been adjusted with effect from 1 February 2021. The new recommended retail price is R2 299 for a standalone Explora Ultra, or R3 499 to have the new decoder installed".
When asked why the DStv Explora Ultra is so expensive, Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice CEO, during the company's investors' call for its financial results for the 6 months until the end of September 2020, said that "what we've decided to do with the DStv Explora Ultra decoder is not to introduce any subsidies as yet, and that is why you see the pricing, if you compare with others, it's a little bit out of sync with what you have seen in the past."
Tim Jacobs, MultiChoice chief financial officer (CFO), said that the DStv Explora Ultra decoder is "really targeted at early-adopters and we think that the initial target market is the guys that want to experiment a little bit".
"But like all of our products, we'll start and then we'll look at the market demand and then make judgement calls about whether to introduce pricing differentials [subsidies] later. It's a good starting point to simply introduce the DStv Explora Ultra into the market."
With the ongoing economic impact of Covid-19 in South Africa that hasn't diminished and with the annual 2021 DStv subscription increase looming from April for South African consumers - always announced in February - MultiChoice was also asked if it's going to increase monthly subscription fees, if it would keep them the same to help South African subscribers, or would be staying unchanged for certain DStv packages.
"DStv will announce any subscription price adjustments to customers in due course," says MultiChoice.
After increasing prices in the United States in late-2020 and from February 2021 in the United Kingdom, TVwithThinus asked Netflix whether it intends to increase prices for Netflix South Africa subscribers in 2021. Netflix SA didn't respond to the media enquiry that was made on Monday.