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South Africa: 1.1 million viewers Choose Pay TV over Free-To-Air options, says TAMS

DStv viewers have grown 33%, which translates to an impressive 1.129- million new viewers, pitching it for the first time against terrestrial channels SABC and e.tv, the latest Television Audience Measurement Survey (TAMS) has shown.

The South African Advertising Research Foundation's TAMS data for January to June last year show that the shift to pay-TV is not limited to the upper-income groups. The living standards measure (LSM) 1-6 adult audience -- LSM 1 having the lowest living standard -- has grown 105%, or 195000 viewers. In the LSM 5 category alone, adult TV viewers increased 212%.

It has been suggested that the increase in pay-TV viewers has a lot to do with a number of sporting events to which MultiChoice has the rights, including Premier Soccer League matches and the African Nations Cup, and an array of DStv packages. The research found total adult TV viewers had increased 4%, or 837,833, while Free-To-Air TV declined by 1%, losing more than 291,000 viewers.

The foundation's senior technical support executive, Claire Welch, said last week that the data showed a change in the viewing behaviour of South Africans. "There is a clear shift towards DStv, whose adult viewers rose from 3,392- million to 4,522-million. If you look at TV viewing in total, the audience is quite stable, as are audience ratings.... Due to the huge move to DStv, however, there is an equal shift away from terrestrial TV. As a whole, terrestrial TV is now competing head to head with satellite."

The biggest loss for Free-To-Air TV was in the upper LSMs. In LSM 7-10, Free-To-Air TV lost 602,000 adult viewers and pay-TV gained more than 934,000. Terrestrial TV LSM 7 adult viewers dropped 9%, LSM 8 fell 14%, LSM 9 lost 8% and LSM 10 dropped 12%. "DStv is no longer the exclusive preserve of the upper classes," Welch said. "More and more lower LSM households are moving to pay TV."

The biggest loss in nonpay-TV viewership was in Gauteng, where 290,000 adult viewers were lost. DStv, on the other hand, gained more than 422,000 adult viewers.

Business Day

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