DStv's owner coins it during the pandemic, grows to 20.9m subscribers

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As people were forced to stay at home during lockdown, MultiChoice saw a surge in subscriber numbers.
As people were forced to stay at home during lockdown, MultiChoice saw a surge in subscriber numbers.
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  • As people were forced to stay at home during lockdown, MultiChoice saw a surge in subscriber numbers.
  • In South Africa, 500 000 more people became subscribers, with the biggest growth in the so-called mass-market bracket – the DStv Family, DStv Access and DStv EasyView bouquets.
  • But MultiChoice lost 100 000 DStv Premium and DStv Compact Plus subscribers.


MultiChoice continues to coin it during the coronavirus pandemic as people have been forced to stay at home amid lockdown measures, which has led to an ongoing surge in so-called mass-market DStv subscriber numbers over the past year.

Subscribers increased by 7% year-on-year to 20.9 million active subscribers, despite its base of DStv Premium subscribers continuing to plunge as these top-end customers are switching to online video streaming.

The MultiChoice Group released its results for the financial year that ended at the end of March 2021 on Thursday, noting that it grew its 90-day active linear pay-TV subscriber base by another 1.4 million DStv and GOtv subscribers. Some 8.9 million of them are in South Africa - which remains its country with the largest subscriber base - with 11.9 million in the rest of Africa (RoA).

This represents the second-highest number of new pay-TV subscribers in MultiChoice's history.

Of the 1.4 million new subscribers, about 500 000 were in South Africa, representing 6% growth year-on-year in South Africa. In South Africa, the base of DStv Premium and DStv Compact Plus subscribers has plunged another 8% from 1.5 million to 1.4 million subscribers. The mid-market segment - comprising DStv Compact and DStv Commercial bouquets - grew by 3% from 2.9 to three million subscribers.

The biggest growth came in the so-called mass-market bracket – DStv Family, DStv Access and DStv EasyView bouquets – that increased by 14% from four million to 4.6 million subscribers. 

In the rest of Africa, DStv's top-end subscribers dropped 10% from 1.2 million subscribers to roughly 900 000.

Similar to Britain's Sky pay-TV operator, MultiChoice and M-Net are pivoting to a new content strategy in South Africa as well as in the rest of Africa.

The Randburg-based pay-TV operator continues to lessen its spending on acquiring international content and is boosting its production spend on local content and African originals in an attempt to differentiate its content offering from global streamers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others such as Disney+, Paramount+ and HBO Max that have not yet, but might launch their subscription video-on-demand services on the African continent in the future.

More content produced

Despite production stoppages and travel restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, MultiChoice and M-Net produced 19% more content than during the previous financial year – a total of 4 567 hours. MultiChoice's total local content library now exceeds 62 000 hours, with 42% of the pay-TV operator's general entertainment spend that was on local content.

MultiChoice grew its revenue by 4% to R53.4 billion. "The Covid-19 pandemic taught us more about the art of the possible," says Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group CEO, in a statement. "We started the year confronted with severe disruptions to our programming schedules, bleak macro-economic forecasts for many of our markets and sharply weaker currencies. In the face of these challenges, our teams rallied together – this helped us deliver on all our key performance metrics."

MultiChoice says that to help manage US dollar-based costs, two major international content agreements and several smaller ones were renegotiated into South African rand. 

MultiChoice also launched 11 new local language channels across sub-Saharan Africa, completed five new co-productions with global content producers and sold 16 of its series to international buyers.

MultiChoice renewed the rights to the English Premier League (EPL) and UEFA Champions League and also secured broadcasting rights to the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. On the international content front, MultiChoice says that it maintains mutually beneficial relationships with its studio partners, and has successfully added access to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube on its DStv Explora Ultra decoder.

MultiChoice says that Connected Video users on the DStv app and ShowMax continue to grow as online consumption increases. According to MultiChoice, local content is also a key differentiator on ShowMax, with local content viewership that is up significantly during the financial year and with four out of the top five titles on ShowMax that are local productions. 

A record number of ShowMax originals were launched during the year, including the first Kenyan and Nigerian original series.

"We are enjoying good momentum and are excited about our prospects for the year ahead," says Mawela. "Our advertising business is recovering, and we have plans to further enhance our entertainment ecosystem. We look forward to an exceptional slate of local content and the meaningful return of live sport as we catch up on the events missed in this past year."

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