Tag: MultiChoice

By Jan Vermeulen for MyBroadband

International video streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Britbox must comply with BEE and pay tax in South Africa, MultiChoice Group CEO Calvo Mawela says.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Mawela said the South African market was imbalanced as traditional broadcasters were subject to more regulations than streaming services.

“[Video streaming players] have to comply with laws like any company operating in SA,” stated Mawela.

As a starting point, he said they must comply with employment requirements, contribute to local content, and pay local taxes.

This is not the first time MultiChoice has called for increased regulations on global streaming operators in South Africa.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) launched an inquiry into subscription TV services in 2016, indicating that it wanted to intervene in the market due to DStv’s dominance.

In response to the inquiry and calls from the ANC and government to break MultiChoice’s monopoly on premium sports broadcasting, Mawela said Netflix must be subject to the same regulations as DStv.

Icasa published the draft findings of its inquiry in April 2019 after a period of public consultations and engagement with stakeholders.

Although it acknowledged players like Netflix, Amazon, and Disney, the regulator said their impact is muted due to South Africa’s poor broadband penetration and the high cost of mobile data.

It recommended several interventions targeting MultiChoice, including shortening exclusive contracts, imposing rights splitting and wholesale-must-offer, opening MultiChoice’s network, and introducing decoder inter-operability.

MultiChoice slated Icasa’s findings.

The regulator allowed stakeholders to give feedback on its draft findings last year.

“We consider providers like Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, HBO Now & Peacock to be an existential competitive threat,” MultiChoice said in its presentation to the regulator.

In May 2022, Icasa announced it was rebooting the inquiry.

“Upon considering the draft findings emanating from the Inquiry — [Icasa] is of the view that further consultation and engagement with stakeholders is required,” said former Icasa chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.

“Any regulatory intervention in this market ought to take account of current policy developments, as well as recent technological and market trends.”

However, later that month, an ANC policy document revealed that the ruling party still wanted to crack down on MultiChoice.

The document was released for public discussion ahead of the ANC’s policy conference in July.

If enacted, the policy would prevent national sporting bodies for the Springboks, Proteas, and Bafana Bafana from selling broadcasting rights exclusively.

Instead, the ANC wants the SABC to have the ability to broadcast all these teams’ games live.

To make up for the revenue sports leagues would lose from MultiChoice, the ANC has proposed an alternative funding model.

Its policy document does not give details on how it would work, except to state that the National Treasury should support the SABC.


DStv starts limiting streaming to one device

By Myles Illidge for MyBroadband

MultiChoice’s dreaded DStv streaming changes take effect from 22 March. Subscribers will only be able to stream content on one device at a time.

The broadcaster has updated its FAQs for its app to reflect the changes.

“Each DStv subscription allows you to stream on one app at a time. This means you can use the app on a maximum of four devices, with management of the devices done on the app,” its FAQ page says.

MultiChoice announced the change a month ago, stating that the limit would kick in on 22 March 2022.

The streaming limit applies to all its packages across Africa. Subscribers may still watch pre-downloaded content while someone else is streaming.

MultiChoice’s decision caused an uproar among DStv subscribers, with some threatening to boycott the broadcaster.

Many DStv subscribers also threatened to cancel their subscriptions when the changes kick in.

“I’ve had DStv since 2004, but I’m going to cancel my subscription because you are only allowing one device to stream at a time,” one DStv subscriber said.

“Well, that’s the end of my DStv subscription. DStv content quality is poor, and other streaming services are available at a fraction of the cost,” said another.

DStv’s single-stream limitation is much more restrictive than other major streaming services.

Competitors like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and international sports streaming services offer multiple concurrent streams.

A MyBroadband analysis of sports streaming services revealed that DStv was the only platform to limit streaming to one device.

The decision was also strange because it compromises DStv’s streaming-only offerings — for which pricing has not been adjusted.

DStv’s streaming-only products are priced similarly to its decoder subscriptions, but decoder-based customers can now watch on their TVs and one other device. They also have the option of XtraView.

MultiChoice has highlighted that it reduced the price of DStv Premium streaming with a R699 per month special. However, this is only available for new subscribers and only lasts for the first three months.

The broadcaster previously said that it had made the decision to address the challenges of piracy and password sharing.

“We will not limit the number of people using a login, however, we are limiting the number of people who can stream at the same time,” MultiChoice explained.

“Password sharing and piracy are challenges for streaming providers globally,” it stated.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to counteract password sharing and piracy, while continuing to bring you the best viewing experience, we will be introducing measures to limit concurrent streaming.”

DStv may soon launch flexible plan

DStv, the Multichoice-owned pay-TV subscription service, is reportedly working on a premium offering that’ll unbundle some of its sports and movie channels, giving their viewers the choice of what they want in their packages. This is according to a recent article by Stuff.

The highlights of the new package are outlined below:

  • The new “flexible” service will be called DStv Flex
  • It aims give users more power in choosing what they want to watch on the platform
  • MultiChoice is looking at allowing DStv subscribers to choose their sport channels in the form of three different, optional, add-on sports packages
  • Customers who sign up for Flex will pay a compulsory R300 per month fee
  • For this they will receive an Entertainment pack with 67 Premium channels
  • Users will be able to add between one and three sports packs. Each sports package includes a different combination of SuperSport and ESPN channels
  • Two of the sports packs cost R350 per month while there’s one priced at R500 per month
  • Customers will have the power to switch certain packages on and off at any time

DStv users have been asking for flexible options around sports for years.

MultiChoice denies R33bn Nigerian tax bill

Source: News24

MultiChoice has disputed reports that it was ordered by a Nigerian appeal tribunal to pay 50% of a 1.8 trillion naira (R66 billion) disputed tax backlog imposed on it by Nigerian authorities.

MultiChoice had to pay the R33 billion as a deposit and condition of the pay-TV company’s case being heard, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) says in an emailed statement on Wednesday. Bloomberg reported that the case has been adjourned for hearing on September 23.

But MultiChoice Nigeria said in a statement that the direction issued by the tribunal does not compel Multichoice Nigeria to make payment of 50% of 1.8 trillion naira, being half of the disputed tax assessment which is under appeal.

“The direction issued by the TAT in accordance with paragraph 15(7) of the Fifth Schedule to the FIRS Establishment Act requires Multichoice Nigeria to deposit with FIRS an amount equal to the tax paid by Multichoice Nigeria in the preceding year of assessment or one half of the disputed tax assessment under appeal, whichever is the lesser amount plus 10%.

“The lesser amount is the tax paid by Multichoice Nigeria in the previous assessed year which is substantially less than the disputed assessment.”

The company said it continues to engage with FIRS in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Last month, Nigerian authorities ordered local banks to freeze Multichoice’s accounts the unpaid tax. FIRS executive chairman Muhammad Nami said the decision to freeze the accounts was as a result of the group’s under-remittance of taxes and continued refusal to grant FIRS access to its servers for audit.


By Loyiso Sidimba for IOL

The troubled SABC will square off with its rival MultiChoice at the communications regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) over the requirement that the subscription broadcasting services carry three of its television channels for free.

The public broadcaster wants subscription broadcasting services such as MultiChoice and StarSat to no longer be allowed to carry its public broadcasting service channels, SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3, without entering into commercial agreements.

According to the SABC, its long-standing view has been that the current provisions of Icasa regulations, dictating that it should make its broadcasting content available at no cost and prescribing the public broadcaster to bear the costs of transmission to subscription broadcasting services, are ultra vires (beyond the powers).

The SABC has seven television channels authorised by Icasa – the “must carry” SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 as well as SABC Encore, SABC News, SABC Parliament and SABC Sport – and fears that the authority’s draft regulations extend the ambit of the “must carry” concept to all the free-to-air public broadcasting service programmes comprising in a public broadcasting service channel.

”This would extend the SABC’s ’must carry’ obligations to SABC Sport, SABC Education and any other current channel or future channel to be developed,” the public broadcaster warned Icasa.

In its submission to Icasa dated May 21, the SABC insisted that the “must carry” channels are SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 and do not include SABC Sport, SABC Education or any other SABC television channel either existing or to be developed.

The public broadcaster may, in its discretion, add the carriage of these additional channels, subject to commercial negotiations.

However, MultiChoice is opposed to the plan and has suggested that the move might be illegal despite the SABC obtaining legal opinion supporting its stance.

The SABC has been accused by MutliChoice of putting first its commercial interests that have now become more urgent in light of its continuing financial difficulties, which have nothing to do with its public service mandate of ensuring universal access to broadcasting services.

MultiChoice revealed that the SABC already earns R569 million a year in advertising revenue from the three channels carried on its DStv platforms.

”Contrary to the unsubstantiated allegations made by the SABC, no subscription or advertising revenue flows to MultiChoice as a result of the carriage of the ’must carry’ channels,” the company explained.

MultiChoice also charged that the public broadcaster failed to acknowledge that the company already makes a significant contribution towards the sustenance of public broadcasting by carrying all ’must carry’ transmission costs, incurring over R108m between 2008 and last year to comply with its obligations, and that Icasa has failed to recognise this.

”There is no legal basis for the SABC’s ’must carry/must pay’ proposal. Any suggestion that subscription broadcasters must pay the SABC for the ’must carry’ channels is completely at odds with the Electronic Communications Act 2005,” MultiChoice told Icasa.

The company insisted that subscription broadcasters cannot lawfully be required to provide the ’must carry’ channels to non-subscribers as such an obligation would not be legally permissible and is likely to be struck down as ultra vires and invalid on other grounds.

Free-to air e.tv wants Icasa’s must carry regulations not to be limited to public service broadcasting licensees such as SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 but to be extended to other commercial free-to air broadcasters with public service obligations like it.

The SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) have backed the public broadcaster.

”In broad terms, the draft regulations are supportive of our position on ’must carry’, which can be summarised as: Must carry, must pay,” the civil society and not-for-profit organisations stated, adding that Icasa has allowed a ‘must carry, must not pay anything’ principle to exist.

Icasa will hear oral submissions from e.tv, MMA/SOS, the SABC and MultiChoice later this month.


By Dan Meyer for The South African

Broadcasting giant MultiChoice has indicated its support over proposed measures to save the embattled South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC), who plan to implement a R265 yearly licensing fee to all South African households able to view their content.

The controversial plan would essentially see any household with access to a tv, laptop, smart phone or tablet charged an annual levy that the broadcaster hopes will salvage them from the financial distress they currently find themselves in. This would replace the existing TV Licence structure.

South Africans have reacted angrily to the notion that they should have to pay for the errors made by the SABC’s management over the years, even if they simply have access to the broadcaster’s content and choose not to watch anything it has to offer. The Democratic Alliance (DA) have called the proposed levy a “stealth bailout” and categorically opposed it. The measure would supposedly generate around R2 billion a year for the SABC.

The SABC submitted a 40-page document to the Department of Communications last week in which they detail the proposed levy and its collection system, saying that it should replace the current TV Licence structure.

“Essentially, the SABC submits that the public broadcasting levy should become a device-independent levy on all households that have the possibility of access[ing] public broadcasting content whether via the internet, mobile, analogue or any digital broadcasting platforms, with exemptions for indigent households and discounts for pensioners and other designated persons,” they said, adding that the the collection of the licence fee from subscribers, per household, is “not an onerous requirement from a systems point of view, noting it amounts to 72c a day based on the current licence fee”.

MultiChoice said on Tuesday that the proposal would eradicate the “outdated” TV licence model that they believe is not on in line with “international best practice”.

The broadcaster said that it is in favour of a “more effective, ring-fenced public broadcasting levy”, and suggested that this should preferably be collected by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

They’re endorsement of the proposal is the polar opposite of they’re appraisal of the plan offered just last week, when they suggested that the plan is unfeasible and “not worthy of any serious consideration”.

The endorsement follows the latest round of retrenchments effected at the SABC, who confirmed the dismissal of 12 SABC radio station managers on Monday 8 March, with the company now initiating a revised structure for its radio titles that will see certain stations clustered together in various “combos”.

Vuyo Mthembu, SABC spokesperson, said that within the new structure, marketing managers will be reporting directly to corporate affairs and marketing departments “to ensure efficiency in the delivery of the organisation’s marketing objectives”.

“Furthermore, station managers are now called business managers as this will ensure that business managers of each station take full ownership of the profit and loss responsibility, drive revenue and listenership growth whilst fulfilling the SABC’s mandate of informing, educating and entertaining South Africans,” he said.


Source: MyBroadband

Independent analyst Chris Gilmour said MultiChoice is not liked and very greedy, which does not bode well for its future prospects.

Gilmour was speaking to Business Day TV about French media company Groupe Canal+ acquiring another big chunk of shares in MultiChoice.

Groupe Canal+ SA acquired 6.5% of MultiChoice Group’s total ordinary shares in early August, and three weeks later increased its stake to 12%.

This sparked rumours that Vivendi – the entity which owns and controls Groupe Canal+ – is looking to acquire MultiChoice.

Vivendi tried to acquire MultiChoice Africa in 2018, but the multi-million-dollar offer was rejected by Naspers.

The company is now stocking up on MultiChoice shares through Groupe Canal+, which may indicate that Vivendi is interested in the bigger prize.

Commenting on this development, Gilmour said he was surprised by the news and is not sure what Vivendi “is playing at here”.

He said given the stiff competition which MultiChoice is facing – notably from Netflix and other streaming providers – the company is facing a tough future.

Even with the acquisition rumours, Gilmour did not like MultiChoice as a long-term investment.

“You are talking about an operator which is not liked and is very greedy. This is going to come back to bite them,” he said.

MultiChoice responds
MultiChoice did not directly respond to Gilmour’s statement that the company is greedy and disliked.

A MultiChoice spokesperson told MyBroadband it is not their policy to comment on the personal views of third parties, including market commentators and analysts.

Instead, the company commented on the corporate action related to Groupe Canal+ purchasing a large chunk of its shares.

“As a listed company, we maintain an open dialogue with our strategic partners and the investment community,” a MultiChoice spokesperson said.

“Vivendi has publicly stated that its stake in MultiChoice Group is a long-term financial investment, demonstrating its confidence in the prospects of the group as the leading video entertainment platform on the African continent and reinforcing its existing long-term relationship with us.”


Questions around MultiChoice’s executive exodus

Source: MyBroadband

Four high-profile MultiChoice executives have resigned or have left the company in recent weeks, raising questions as to what is behind these departures.

This week, MultiChoice announced that the CEO of its South African operations, Mark Rayner, had resigned to “further his journey outside the group”.

The company said Rayner will leave MultiChoice on 30 November 2020 and that his successor will be announced “in the near future”.

This follows shortly after the resignation of MultiChoice Connected Video CEO Niclas Ekdahl in June to “pursue personal interests”.

Yolisa Phahle will take over Ekdahl’s position, in addition to running the General Entertainment division.

Other departures include MultiChoice Group chief strategy officer Max Krudop and MultiChoice Connected Video head of communications Richard Boorman.

The exodus of high-profile executives at MultiChoice sparked speculation that there may be something more to these resignations than meets the eye.

One theory is that MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela’s management style and strategic direction for the company led to the resignations.

There is also speculation that some of the resignations and departures were not planned, but this could not be confirmed.


By Thinus Ferreira for News24

South Africa’s Competition Commission has started an investigation into MultiChoice that has announced plans to add global streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video alongside its own Showmax service.

In its latest financial year results announced in mid-June, MultiChoice revealed that it plans to add Netflix and Amazon Prime Video as subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services to a new streaming app carousel that it wants to launch for DStv subscribers.

This new streaming app vertical will house separate blocks or apps, incorporating DStv Now, Showmax, Joox, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video – and in future even more global streaming services like possibly Disney+, HBO Max, Spotify and others – as MultiChoice evolves to become what in the pay-TV industry is termed a “super-aggregator” of video content.

How it will work, and already works elsewhere in the world, is that consumers can still subscribe separately and directly with these streaming services, but can also do so through their traditional pay-TV service that gives access to their rivals in win-win “frenemy” content distribution agreements.

MultiChoice wants to provide DStv subscribers who sign up for one or more of these SVOD services – for however long – the convenience of one monthly bill paid in rand and the streaming service amount(s) just showing up as an additional invoice line-item.

How MultiChoice benefits is that by offering DStv subscribers seamless access to streaming service competitors but through its interface and platform, MultiChoice gets to keep a DStv subscriber within its own eco-system. MultiChoice also gets paid a commission by a SVOD service for every subscriber who signs up to each of these services.

How the pay-TV subscriber benefits is that the tacked-on streaming service subscription, paid in local currency, is usually a bit cheaper than going direct as part of a promotion to entice them to try and use it, and because the pay-TV operator because of scale gets a “wholesale” price.

The streaming service benefits by getting additional revenue and new subscribers through leveraging the scale of the pay-TV operator and piggybacking on the more trusted local brand. It lowers what is called “product friction” – potential customers to scared to try something new or unwilling to complete a new registration and sign-up and cumbersome login process.

Traditional pay-TV operators in the United States like Comcast, in the United Kingdom like Sky, Canal+ in France and several others worldwide have already taken the leap to integrate and offer streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max and others that are actually competitors, into their existing services and making them available through their platforms and user interfaces.

MultiChoice plans to take the wrapping off its latest DStv Explora decoder next Wednesday in a media launch that it will broadcast on one of its own DStv channels, with the decoder that will likely be 4K-resolution capable.

It will likely also come with a DStv remote control that will have a dedicated Netflix or video streaming button, similar to elsewhere in the world, taking DStv subscribers directly to the streaming app carousel where DStv Now, Showmax, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and future streaming services will all appear stacked next to each other.

It’s unclear how the new Competition Commission investigation might scupper or alter MultiChoice’s showcase plans for next week.

MultiChoice was asked for comment regarding the Competition Commission investigation into MultiChoice’s SVOD expansion plans, and how the investigation will impact the Randburg-based pay-TV operator’s plans for the consumer roll-out of these rival services on its platform.

Joe Heshu, MultiChoice’s group executive for corporate affairs, told Channel24 on Wednesday in response to the media enquiry that MultiChoice is unable to comment at this stage.

Siyabulela Makunga, Competition Commission spokesperson, told Channel24 about its investigation of MultiChoice wanting to add Netflix and Amazon Prime Video that “we’re not commenting on the issue because it is still at a very sensitive stage”.

He couldn’t say when the investigation started, or when it might be finished. “It’s still very early,” he said.

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DStv offers up free channels

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

DStv Now has made a selection of channels available to all South Africans for free.

DStv Now is an online streaming service which is bundled with DStv’s satellite broadcasting service, and allows subscribers to watch TV and shows from mobile devices, smart TVs, laptops, and more.

The new free channel package is available to all South Africans, however, and not only DStv subscribers.

The company said that in response to the coronavirus outbreak in South Africa, a number of DStv Now channels are no longer locked behind a subscription and are available to anyone with an Internet connection.

DStv channels which are now available to stream for free are:

100 – DStv
180 – People’s Weather
238 – SuperSport Play
313 – PBS Kids
320 – Channel O
343 – TBN
400 – BBC World News
401 – CNN
402 – Sky News
403 – eNCA
404 – SABC News
405 – Newzroom Afrika
414 – Euronews Now

Staying informed about the latest news on the virus is the first step in stopping its spread, said the company. For this reason, it has made several 24-hour news channels available.

In addition to these channels, episodes of popular series are also available via the Catch Up portal on the free service, including Igazi, The River, Isibaya, Binnelanders, Suidooster, and Die Ware Naarheid.

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