South Africa: Only half of those who have TopTV decoder subscribe


DStv rival TopTV has sold 360,000 decoders since its launch two years ago, but of these only about half are actively using the service, the company’s chairman and acting CEO, Eddie Mbalo, has revealed.

He tells TechCentral that TopTV, which is owned by On Digital Media (ODM), currently has between 160 000 and 200 000 paying subscribers at any given time.

This is problematic given that TopTV has heavily subsidised the cost of decoders and installations to entice users onto its service. “We have to look at how to bring those people back and that means improving our content offerings,” Mbalo says.

Mbalo, who is acting in the CEO role following the recent departure of founding CEO Vino Govender, says one of the company’s top priorities is ensuring it understands why consumers buy its decoders and elect not to continue subscribing.

“It could be attributable to the fact that we don’t have big sports rights,” he says. Rival MultiChoice, which owns DStv, has secured rights for top-flight local and international rugby, cricket and football, including the Super 15, Currie Cup and Premier Soccer League matches.

“There is confusion out there, with people not understanding what is at play in terms of the rights issues, particularly around sport,” Mbalo says. “If we can’t provide sport, we have to provide an alternative.”

TopTV is struggling to make headway in a market dominated by DStv, despite being the only one of four companies licensed by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) several years ago to launch commercial services. The others, Super 5 Media (formerly Telkom Media), Walking on Water Television (WowTV) and eSat (a sister company to have not launched offerings, though WowTV and Super 5 claim they are still hoping to offer commercial services.

Mbalo says TopTV plans to offer a range of niche sports as a way of enticing sports-loving South Africans to the service. But he admits the company isn’t in a position to get into a bidding war with MultiChoice for top local and international games.

“There are lots of sports out there, outside the premier sports,” he says. “I think it’s up to TopTV to identify its own niche.”