100 World Class South Africans: Nolo Letele

2013-07-23 12:00

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After studying in the UK, Nolo Letele returned to SA to find there were not many jobs for a black electronics graduate in 1974.

He found work at a radio station in Lesotho and ended up helping to launch that country’s first TV station.

In 1990 he joined M-Net; he knew very little about pay TV but Letele has never been afraid of a challenge, or new ideas and pushing boundaries.

One such innovation was interactive television, offering e-commerce and email on TV – who would have thought it wouldn’t work out?

More importantly, because he believes every mistake is a vital lesson, there’s been plenty that has worked: dual-view decoders, mobile phone TV, BoxOffice and cheaper DStv Compact, which opened up a whole new market to satellite television.

In the early 90s, Letele pioneered MultiChoice’s expansion into the rest of Africa; today DStv is available in 50 countries in six million homes, including channels in Swahili, Yoruba and Hausa.

The Americans tend to see Africa as one country, so it took an African to avoid treating the continent as one homogeneous market.

Now executive chairman of MultiChoice SA, Letele received the 2012 Lifetime African Achievement Prize from the Millennium Excellence Foundation for media development in Africa.

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