TopTV changes its name to StarSat and orders Chinese
On Digital Media (ODM), effectively taken over by China's StarTimes TV conglomerate following a cash bail-out, is ordering Chinese from the menu for its new TV dinner. The struggling Woodmead based pay-TV operator is rebranding the damaged TopTV name into StarSat writes Thinus Ferreira
At the same time ODM and StarTimes are in the process of launching and restructuring a new bouquet of TV channels with new packages, heavy with Chinese TV channels and Chinese sourced content.
Besides multiple self-compiled channels which will now bear the StarSat name and logo – Star Music, Star Gospel, Star Guide, Star Movies 1, Star Movies 1 + 2Hrs, Star E1, Star One, Star Africa 2, Novela E1, Novela E2, Kung Fu 1, Star Chinese 2, and Star Bollywood – ODM and StarTimes is adding a new StarSat Chinese package from January.
Like the StarSat Indian additional package and StarSat's pornographic package, StarSat Chinese will be available as an additional bolt-on subscription for R149 per month for 17 further Chinese TV channels.
Also included in the new StarSat general channel line-up is Chinese news and documentary channels such as CCTV9 Documentary, CCTV News and the Times Now news channel sourced from India.
A new white high definition (HD) enabled StarSat HD decoder manufactured in China is now available in South Africa. A StarSat installation costs R599 but existing TopTV subscribers who want to upgrade can order the new StarSat decoder for R300. No HD channels will be available however until 2014 according to the pay-TV operator.
e.tv's newly launched "e+" TV channels are also being added to ODM and StarTimes’ StarSat bouquet according to the new StarSat website.
Sabido Investment Limited's eKasi+, eAfrica+ and eMovies+ channels are coming to StarSat which is already available since mid-October on Platco Digital's new OpenView HD (OVHD) platform but not on MultiChoice's DStv.
e.tv, asked for comment about the additional e.tv channels to be added to StarSat says "e.tv's policy is platform-neutral and we aim to be on as many platforms as possibe. A media statement will be issued as and when e.tv becomes available on new platforms."
StarSat’s porn channels are already running although ODM and StarTimes are not publicising the fact.
Instead of the three sex channels ODM applied for and for which South Africa's broadcasting regulator granted permission, two of the pornographic channels – Private Spice and Playboy TV – are available in a separate sex TV package of R159 per month.
Although no mention is being made of the porno package in press releases or marketing materials, the package is available to subscribers who call the ODM call centre and request the porno bouquet specifically.
In response to a media enquiry ODM says "the Playboy package is being managed and marketed in a very targeted manner". It's not yet clear why the third applied for sex channel, Desire TV, is not available, and whether it would be added later.
Other new TV channels ODM and StarTimes are planning to add to StarSat according to their website include Nat Geo Gold and FOX Crime. FOX Crime is already available since June on MultiChoice's DStv.
While still lacking a proper sport offering, StarSat is adding NBA TV with basketball coverage, and retaining Fuel TV and Setanta Africa.
Other new planned StarSat channels which were not available on TopTV before include Animaux (a French TV channel about the animal world), news channels CNC, TVC News and Bloomberg Television.
StarSat says it hopes to have "over 100 channels" by 1 January 2014. Eddie Mbalo, ODM's acting CEO who will soon be replaced by a CEO from StarTimes, says in a statement that "the new [channel] structure offers more channels per package, and at more competitive prices”.
Although TopTV subscribers were promised at the end of October by ODM that they will get free access in November to new channels, no further channels have so far materialised.
On Sunday ODM and StarTimes broke the promise and told subscribers free channel sampling will now only take place from December.
"For December you will be charged your current package price, but will receive additional channels. In January you will be charged the new package price. If you would like to choose a different package, you should call before 10 December," ODM has now told existing TopTV subscribers.