South Africa: On Digital Media and Super5Media are preparing to enter the pay-TV market


On Digital Media and Super5Media are preparing to enter the South African pay-TV market to take on DStv. They have cleared their regulatory hurdles and are gearing up for the last leg of the race to inject competition into the pay-TV market.

The sector has long been dominated by MultiChoice and many South Africans were looking forward to the possibility of competition. Both ODM and Super5Media have been waiting for the last regulatory boundary to fall, before working towards a commercial service.

Last year, Super5Media (formerly Telkom Media) and ODM were granted broadcasting licences by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA); however, both companies wanted access to a networking licence.

The regulator has now given both companies access to the electronic communications network services licence, which allows them to build their own broadcasting networks. Both companies were reluctant to rely on Sentech, which is the carrier for SABC's broadcasting services.

ODM's head of regulatory affairs, Dimitri Martinis, says the company is pleased with ICASA's decision to award it the licence. Its next plan of action is to begin finalising its network and it expects its commercial service to be live by April next year.

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While the company will also use some of Sentech's services, the network will be primarily in ODM's hands. “We have had lots of delays, but we have managed to overcome them and we are excited about getting going,” he says.

The company has not yet revealed the services it will offer when it goes live. However, Martinis says: “You certainly won't be disappointed with what we will be providing the South African public.”

Super5Media has also faced its own battles, having changed hands once and tackled similar regulatory trouble as its competitor. It faced the threat of losing the original licence since it was initially granted to Telkom Media. When the company was sold to Chinese broadcaster, Shenzhen Media, the validity of the licence was questioned.

However, it now has clarity on both its broadcasting and network licence. Super5Media spokesman Chris van Zyl says it will be ready to broadcast commercially by the end of the first half of next year. “The company is pleased with ICASA's decision to grant the licence and is confident that it will provide pay-TV services within the first half of 2010 that will extend competition in the pay-TV market in SA and offer South African TV consumers more choice at attractive prices,” he says.

Super5Media will offer a range of services, from traditional satellite broadcasting, to IPTV. It was also in discussions with several content providers for entertainment and sports shows that were expected to go live anytime between June and August last year.

Walking on Water, a niche religious competitor, has also been granted its licence. The company did not respond to ITWeb's queries by the time of publication.