Introduction of South Africa’s first ever prepaid pay-TV model


The introduction of South Africa’s first ever prepaid pay-TV model on 13 August by local satellite subscription television operator TopTV is positioned as a key factor in the broadcaster’s turnaround strategy. 

Since TopTV’s phenomenally successful launch in June 2010, the subscriber base has not grown as originally projected, necessitating a full review of the TopTV business earlier this year. 

The prepaid model has been introduced to re-activate dormant subscribers and attract new subscribers, particularly in areas outside the main urban centres and television viewers in the lower income bracket. Prepaid vouchers will be available for purchase at outlets all over the country, including spaza shops in townships. 

Although the official launch took place at The Tavern in Soweto’s Maponya Mall on 16 August, the service went live on 13 August, with 100 vouchers sold in the first three days.

Each voucher runs for a period of 30 days and subscribers can choose from two options: the Variety package at R109 and the Ultimate Package at R279 – the latter provides access to 62 channels. Once a voucher is purchased the subscriber merely dials a number on his cell phone, punches in the TopTV decoder Smartcard number and the prepaid voucher number and the service will be activated in a few minutes. There are no re-connection fees in between prepaid activations.

At the Maponya Mall launch the prepaid service was introduced via a humorous snippet from ZA News, the satirical political puppet series currently broadcast on TopTV. 

“Wouldn’t it be great if our politicians ran on prepaid,” said a puppet of journalist Tim Modise, while the puppet version of investigative reporter Debora Patta responded: “They would have to be topped up all the time.”

TopTV’s interim chief executive officer Eddie Mbalo noted that the prepaid model had only been introduced into a few countries in the world. “TopTV has introduced the prepaid service to give viewers instant access to the TopTV bouquet and to offer subsribers an alternative and instant payment method.”

TopTV has secured two partners in terms of retail outlets – Pep Stores and Blue Label. By the end of the year there will be about 6, 000 outlets around the country, with the ultimate goal to expand to 100,000. Eventually, TopTV prepaid vouchers will be available in every outlet where mobile phone airtime can be purchased.

Lekola noted that TopTV was in the process of claiming its own position as a real innovator and market disruptor. “We are also going to launch a mobisite as well as Internet banking to facilitate the prepaid service.”