TopTV needs cash

2012-03-20 14:23

The previous chief executive of TopTV had no broadcasting experience and now the struggling pay TV operator needs cash.

Eddie Mbalo, the interim chief executive, who took over from Vino Govender following a much-publicised and controversial pornography channels push, told Jeremy Maggs of Maggs on Media that “this was someone who had no background in broadcasting television at all”.

“Maybe we should not have launched at the time when we did. Launching at that time came with its own challenges.

“The response from the public was great and I think we got overwhelmed. Vino (Govender) was great for the launch but I think now we’ve got to take it to the next level,” he said.

Mbalo said TopTV currently has “about 360 000 decoders out there. We have about 140 000 to 150 000 paying subscribers on a daily basis.”

When asked about the financial health of TopTV, he said: “We need cash at the moment. We are not in a cash crisis, but moving forward we might have to go to our shareholders and ask for more money.”

Mbalo said he doesn’t see MultiChoice’s DStv platform as competition. “I don’t even see MultiChoice as our competitor. We look at a specific segment of the market and that is not MultiChoice’s market.”

He accused MultiChoice of not playing fair, saying: “The regulator and the government allowed for a second pay TV operator and then they used their dominance to actually try and crush any other player.”

Maggs asked him to explain and he said MultiChoice tried to crush TopTV by launching the cheap DStv Lite bouquet. “We think that was trying to anticipate our launch” and “that wasn’t fair play”.

Mbalo said TopTV is looking at MultiChoice’s content acquisition strategies, their sports acquisitions, “at how they’ve managed to close access to content, locally but also internationally”.

He said TopTV is, however, not talking to the Competition Commission.

“We are at the moment looking at our own business, we’re looking at the weaknesses, and the opportunities that exist and that is our focus at this time.

“Content is what keeps people watching. People are excited to buy the decoder but once they tune in, if the content doesn’t appeal and resonate with their emotions, then we have to relook. We should become an alternative to what is available.”

Porn possibly still an option
Maggs asked Mbalo whether TopTV has thoroughly researched subscribers about the need for the pornographic channels which TopTV planned to launch.

Their porn channels application was denied by the broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

“We’re getting feedback. We have not gone out to do scientific research but we’re looking at the feedback we’re getting. People want choice,” he said.

Mbalo said the TopTV board and shareholders will decide if the channel is again going to try and make a push for the porn bouquet and appeal the Icasa decision. “That decision will be made by the board.”

He said: “Pursuing commercial advertising should not be our focus at this point in time. Our focus at this point is to acquire more subscribers and to retain the ones we have.

“If we provide current subscribers with the content that they want to see, the truth of the matter is that South Africans want to see more of themselves, so local content is an area where we are going to be competitive.”

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