New free-to-air satellite TV service to launch in May

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TV. (Photo: Getty Images)
TV. (Photo: Getty Images)
  • A new free-to-air satellite TV service will launch in South Africa in May.
  • PremiumFree TV will launch with a bouquet of at least 18 TV channels.
  • Viewers will likely be able to watch PremiumFree TV through eMedia's Openview and MultiChoice's DStv decoders.


A new free-to-air satellite TV service PremiumFree TV will launch with 18 channels on 1 May. 

PremiumFree TV's bouquet will carry a range of content from sports and movies to telenovelas, kids content, factual content, drama series, gospel, comedy and reality programming.

It will likely be accessible through DStv and Openview decoders, as well as generic or universal free-to-air set-top box decoders and satellite dishes.

AfricaXP launched PremiumFree TV in Nigeria and Ghana in West Africa in late-2018 with 13 TV channels as a freely available satellite TV offering and is bringing its multichannel bouquet to sub-Saharan Africa too after acquiring space on Intelsat's IS20 transponder.

"Broadcasting unencrypted not only means that the service can be offered free of charge, but it also means that the channels can be instantly received on dishes and decoders already owned, installed and connected."
-- Craig Kelly, AfricaXP CEO

"It's all about instant reach for us and with no extra equipment or cost for the viewer," he said.

People with Openview or DStv won't need a new or additional decoder to watch PremiumFree TV.

"After years of stagnation in the African TV market, characterised by the regular failure of new pay-TV initiatives, Intelsat's decision to seek out AfricaXP as a partner and allocate one of the few available transponders on IS20 to PremiumFree TV is a clear vote of confidence in the PremiumFree TV project," the company says.

"Intelsat has clear conviction that multichannel free to air TV delivered over satellite has a big role to play in the future of the African TV market."

Christelle Meyer, Intelsat senior account director, says: "Many countries dealing with economic disparity or smaller populations struggle with making fibre and mobile broadband work as a universal media distribution technology. Satellite will play a vital role in delivering rich media content to all corners of the continent well into the future."

PremiumFree TV has been transmitting a pilot channel on the IS20 transponder since 7 January 2021, with at least 18 TV channels in a bouquet that will be tested from April and before the official launch on 1 May.

"It's exciting to be able to offer a compelling multichannel bouquet to such a large and underserved market," says Craig Kelly. "Free-to-air TV is critical in stimulating the market by offering value to a segment that can't afford to pay regularly for premium content, if at all."

"A strong media industry is symbiotic for the whole ecosystem. Strong free to air drives penetration of TV sets, stimulate content development and grows viewing habits which in turn attracts advertisers. We hope to make our contribution to stimulating activity to the benefit for all players."

Here are the 18 TV channels that will be available on PremiumFree TV at launch on 1 May:

1. BongoTV: Tanzanian Swahili movies.

2. True African: A mixed-genre African channel that has movies, lifestyle shows, factual, reality and music content, as well as sports and soaps.

3. Africawood Blockbusters: A variety of films from across the African continent.

4. fresh: A lifestyle and reality show channel.

5: Limelight: Family, action and kids movies.

6. Romanza+ Africa: A telenovela channel.

7. LOL Africa: A comedy channel with short-form humorous content, funny videos and sitcoms.

8. Sports Connect: Sports magazine shows, profile series, documentaries and sports news channel.

9. Kiddiwinks: A toddler channel aimed at pre-school viewers.

10. Pulse: An African youth and music channel.

11. Afriwood Series: African soaps and drama series.

12. Riverwood: Kenyan movies and series.

13. RPM: A motoring and motorsports channel.

14. LifeTV: A factual channel covering crime and investigation programming, disasters and culture.

15. DIVA: Entertainment news, fashion, gossip, music, reality, dating shows and makeovers.

16. Gospellife: A mixed-genre Christian values channel.

17. Fight Night: A mixed martial arts and boxing channel.

18. synapse: An e-gaming channel.

DECODERS:

People with Openview or DStv won't need a new or additional decoder to watch PremiumFree TV.

Any generic or "universal" free-to-air Mpeg4 DVB-S decoder connected to a satellite dish aimed at the IS20 transponder also used by eMedia Holdings' Openview and MultiChoice's DStv will get PremiumFree TV.

What does this mean? It means that almost any decoder that is new and available for sale now is likely to work - it does not need a smart card slot or any encryptions system imbedded. The PremiumFree TV bouquet of channels are free and will remain so.

PremiumFree TV will also be viewable on more than one device in a household. An installer could provide an LNB splitter that would make it possible to connect multiple decoders to the same dish. A HDMI splitter can also enable a household to have more than one feed from the same decoder.

While MultiChoice for DStv and eMedia Investments for Openview only include their TV channels in their services' electronic guide (EPGs) on their decoders, there are ways to manually scan for the PremiumFree TV channels on these decoders and set-top boxes. 

Updates sent to decoders from these service providers may, however, delete these settings. The PremiumFree TV channels are transmitted unencrypted, and other operators are free to include such services in their EPGs if they choose to do so, says the company.

PremiumFree TV says that people who can't receive the PremiumFree TV channels on their DStv or Openview decoders and want to watch them can buy any low-cost generic or universal free-to-air decoder, remove the LNB cable from your current DStv or Openview decoder and just attach this to your free-to-air decoder.

They scan the decoder or use the PremiumFree TV parameters, and you will find the channels.

If you have a DStv Explora decoder connected, you will also need to look at the plastic LNB on the middle of your satellite dish and swap the cable from the original smart LNB connector to the other universal LNB connector. PremiumFree TV says that any satellite dish installer can assist with this switch.

The Intelsat IS20 coordinates are FEC: 3/4, with frequency 12682 (MHZ), symbol rate 27500, horizontal polarity, and transponder code EF36K.

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