TopTV’s Chinese investor to ‘rattle’ DStv

2013-04-18 16:43

StarTimes, a Chinese media group ready to bail out the struggling TopTV wants to take on MultiChoice’s DStv by slashing pay-TV subscriptions, dramatically improving pay-TV content and “rattling” the South African pay-TV market.

On Digital Media (ODM), which runs the South African satellite pay-TV service TopTV and is looking to stave off liquidation, has published its business rescue plan in partnership with China’s StarTimes media group.

StarTimes is planning a massive overhaul of “failed” TopTV if it gets the go-ahead to funnel millions into the beleaguered loss-making operation.

The business rescue plan names StarTimes’ interest in acquiring a stake in TopTV as the company’s only and last chance to stave off liquidation. South African broadcasting regulations currently cap foreign ownership on licensed broadcasting entities at 20%.

StarTimes says, in the TopTV plan, that it wants to “rattle” the pay-TV market.

StarTimes says it wants to offer “pay-TV services at half their current costs and let ordinary South Africans pay less for good-quality digital television”.

StarTimes wants to help make TopTV a “strong competitor in the pay-television environment currently monopolised by one player (MultiChoice),” says TopTV’s plan.

The financially distressed ODM is now hoping China’s StarTimes media group will be able to become the new equity partner the Woodmead company desperately needs for a major capital injection.

StarTimes plans to “implement a complete restructuring of TopTV’s affairs and business and debt”. If it gets the go-ahead to bail out TopTV, it wants to install its own CEO, who will have been a previous employee of StarTimes.

The business rescue plan warns that job losses may occur and states that should StarTimes not be given the go-ahead, “a liquidation of the company will be inevitable”.

StarTimes says its aim is to “give every South African family the opportunity to own digital television” and already run pay-TV packages with bouquets of up to 140 TV channels elsewhere on the African continent.

StarTimes group president ZinXing Ping says StarTimes has the aim of becoming “Africa’s most influential digital TV operator”.

“There are about 11 million households in South Africa with TV sets. About 4 million are subscribers to pay-TV. There exists a tremendous potential to develop the pay-TV base in South Africa.”

StarTimes, which already has more than 7 million pay-TV subscribers in China, already operates pay-TV services in 13 African countries with 23 000 employees and 2.3 million African pay-TV subscribers across the continent.

A possible deal will give China and StarTimes a crucial foothold in South Africa’s pay-TV market – the most advanced on the African continent, still dominated by MultiChoice’s DStv service.

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