South Africa: Naspers braces for pay-TV challenge

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South Africa's pay-TV and publishing group Naspers has re-launched a lower tier pay-TV package to counter the impending challenge of market competition in the form of four new operators. Last month the country's communications authority granted pay-TV licences to fixed-line operator Telkom's media unit, leisure and media group Hosken Consolidated Investments and two smaller operators -- On Digital Media and Walking on Water -- ending Naspers' decade old monopoly.

Entry of new operators is expected to stimulate the market, with more investment in pay-TV services seen. Naspers' local pay-TV operation Multichoice said its EasyView package comprises 10 video channels -- up from a previous four-- as well as five data channels and 28 radio stations.

"EasyView provides access to pay television to a wider viewership. The bouquet has been in existence for over five years. This improved bouquet is now being re-launched in line with our strategy of providing DStv to different market segments - from entry level to premium," Nolo Letele, chief executive of MultiChoice South Africa, said in a statement.

The package will cost an annual subscription fee of 210 rand or a monthly fee of 20 rand (US$2.95). MultiChoice SA -- which has about 1.4 million subscribers -- contributes approximately 76 percent to Naspers revenue. Telkom Media -- which has funding of over 7.5 billion rand over eight years -- has said it will offer cheaper packages in attempts to attract subscribers, starting at approximately 100 rand a month.

Telkom Media -- which expects to be in the market next year -- says it expects the country's subscription television market to double by 2012. Most of the budding pay-TV operators put forward a much cheaper package as key to the success of their ventures. Telkom Media spokesman Chris Van Zyl told Reuters that MultiChoice's new package was evidence of the group's shift to focus on the lower end of the market.