SA's new pay-TV attempt


Gay TV, local soccer in the form of a new league and more educational and local programming are what South African TV viewers can expect if new pay-TV licences are doled out by South Africa’s broadcasting regulator.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) heard applications from Close-T Broadcasting Network, Siyaya TV, Kagiso TV, Mindset Media and Mobile TV who all want to start subscription television services in South Africa.

It’s the second attempt to open South Africa’s pay-TV sector up to more players since 2007, when Telkom Media, On Digital Media (ODM), e.Sat and Walking on Water TV (WowTV) were handed pay-TV licences.

After that, e.Sat from decided not to start a service, Telkom Media which became Super 5 Media collapsed and WowTV never got off the ground. 

ODM’s TopTV is in business rescue three years after it started in May 2010 and suffered huge reputational damage for twice trying to add pornographic TV channels. TopTV’s sex channels have not materialised more than three months after Icasa gave TopTV permission to start the separate porn bouquet.

Now new companies want to try for a slice of the country’s lucrative pay-TV market dominated by MultiChoice’s DStv where consumers feel squeezed due to the government’s lack of the long-delayed transition from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting (DTT) which would give ordinary TV viewers access to more TV channels and more choice.

Close-T Broadcasting Network wants to bring gay TV content, including a pay-per-view on-demand service to South African viewers in the form of “high-quality international and local programming” to its service it wants to call CloseTV.  It told Icasa that it already set up exclusive partnerships with global gay content providers such as the OutTV group, Logo TV and the OUT in Africa Film Festival.

Close-T Broadcasting Network told Icasa that CloseTV subscribers will only pay for the TV which is of interest to them "as opposed to paying a monthly subscription for a premier service and then only watching 20% of the total bouquet".

Kagiso Media wants to start Kagiso TV with around 70 TV channels for a subscription fee of R240 per month and with channels heavily focused on local content driven by entertainment and news, as well as educational programmes. Kagiso TV plans to have subscribers choose their own TV channels from a selection of available TV channels to build their own bouquet.

Siyaya TV with talk show host Dali Thambo as one of the investment backers, want to start its own local soccer league and broadcast those matches for a monhtly subscription fee of R70. Siyaya TV wants to offer a library of video-on-demand content to subscribers and a PVR capable of storing 100 hours of television.

Mindset Media wants to broadcast educational content to public schools around the country. Mindset wants provinces to pay TV subscription fees per school.

Mobile TV wants to start eight TV channels and four radio stations for mobile devices such as cellphones and tablets.

Meanwhile Infinity Media with president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma as one of the investors will start ANN7 on MultiChoice’s DStv platform as South Africa’s third 24-hour news channel next week, broadcasting from its state-of-the-art studio fascilities in Midrand.

It follows the launch of SABC News, the SABC’s second attempt at a 24-hour TV news channel on DStv at the beginning of the month after SABC News International was shuttered. MultiChoice is giving the public broadcaster more than half a billion rand over the next few years to run SABC News as a news channel which is currently only available to pay-TV subscribers and not all SABC licence fee payers.

The addition of ANN7 next week will suddenly bring the total number of available local 24-hour TV news channels on DStv, together with the existing eNCA (DStv 403), to three.

Meanwhile Platco Digital said it wants to launch OpenView HD in October with 15 TV channels as a free-to-air service. Platco Digital doesn’t have a licence from Icasa to start OpenView HD but says it doesn’t need one. Icasa told Channel24 that no broadcasting service can be provided without a valid broadcasting service licence issued by Icasa.