50 000 sign up to new TopTV

2010-05-02 09:22

MultiChoice’s first local competitor, TopTV, exploded onto the

scene this week selling 50?000 subscription packages on its launch day


TopTV publicity manager Melinda Connor last night confirmed that

all available stock (including decoders) had been sold out.

“We obviously hoped to do well but the uptake was better than


Thinus Ferreira, a TV writer and commentator, said a pay-TV

revolution was looming.

“The launch of TopTV is going to make the market stronger and more


“Pay-TV operators will have to drastically up the level of customer

service and the whole value proposition (what they offer at what price).”

He says On Digital Media (ODM) –

which operates TopTV – has succeeded in removing a “big hurdle” in pay-TV,

namely the cost of the hardware and installation, by offering the decoder at a

“super-cheap” R499, which includes the satellite dish and installation cost.

Ferreira believes TopTV could succeed, considering there are an

estimated 5.5 million TV households able to afford pay-TV, and that TopTV needs

to reach about 10% of that in a few years’ time to be profitable.

But some say the success of the new service is not


Broadcasting analyst Clare O’Neil believes there is no space in the

market for a second pay-TV operator because of the way content deals work.

Movies, for example, are first released to theatres, then to video

stores, after which pay-TV operators get their turn.

After each release there is

a window period which delays distribution.

O’Neil said: “Since MultiChoice has sewn up most of the first-pay

rights, some of TopTV’s content will actually be quite old by the time it is


She doubts whether consumers would pay for old content when they

have access to free content on SABC and e.tv.

MultiChoice will always get first-pay rights. They may only be on

equal footing when TopTV reaches one million subscribers.”

O’Neil also doubts whether ODM’s budget (it has secured R1 billion

in funding) is sufficient.

» Quick Facts

» TopTV needs 380?000 subscribers to

break even. It expects to reach this target within one to three years’


»The service is aimed at non-pay-TV subscribers in an estimated

5.5 million TV households that can afford the product.

» The current offering totals 53 channels, to which more channels

will be added “continuously”. Package prices range from R99 (24 video channels

and 25 audio channels) to R249.

» While no plan is in place to carry adult content, TopTV has not

ruled out the possibility of including such content in the future.

» Adding Personal Video Recorder (PVR) capabilities is in TopTV’s

12-month plan. Content-on-demand could be offered within the next two years.

There are no plans to offer Internet Protocol TV (IPTV).

» ODM has six big investors, including European satellite company

SES Astra, Kopano ke Matla, the investment arm of Cosatu, and the Industrial

Development Corporation (IDC). It has acquired R1?billion in funding.

» ODM did not approach MultiChoice to explore the possibility of

providing both services on the same decoder because the technology used is

“completely different”.

Source: Elouise Kelly, chief marketing officer, TopTV.


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