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South Africa: 18 Companies Apply To Provide New Pay TV Services To Compete With DStv

South Africans may soon be spoilt for choice when it comes to payTV options from next year -- some of them delivered to your cellphone. Until now Naspers’ MultiChoice has been the sole provider of subscription TV in South Africa, but finally, that is about to change. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has recently received 18 applications in response to its invitation for new pay TV licences, covering a diverse selection of broadcasting technologies, from satellite to digital terrestrial.

ICASA has not placed a limit on the number of payTV licences it will issue, though it is highly unlikely the domestic market would sustain more than five or six.

Most of the applicants are promising to offer more affordable viewing and much more content. Some of the offerings will cost as little as R100 a month, compared to DStv's R469 a month.

MultiChoice has been criticised a lot in recent years for its expensive pricing structure, and many felt that the high pricing proved that MultiChoice was taking advantage of its monopoly position in the country.

Among the ICASA applicants were some familiar companies, such as Telkom and MSG Afrika Media who also wanted to get their hands on a commercial satellite and cable subscription broadcast licence. Telkom has felt the sting of competition from Neotel and hopes that getting involved in payTV services will put it a few steps ahead of Neotel.

ICASA says that the current free-to-air terrestrial broadcaster and the South African Broadcasting Corporation have also applied for licences. Both are strong contenders because of their experience and stable market positions. Both have promised to offer strong local content, more channels and affordability.

One of the more unexpected applicants is Black Earth Communications, which had already applied for a commercial broadcasting licence in Botswana to run a digital payTV service called Black Entertainment Satellite Television (BEStv). It wants to offer between five and 10 TV channels for a fee that is less than R100 a month.

Missing from the list are Vodacom and MTN, both of which have enormous plans for delivering TV services to your cellphone. Vodacom already provides a range of TV channels such as Sky News and E! Entertainment to its 3G users, and MTN is reportedly in talks with MultiChoice around launching its TV-to-cellphone service.

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