MultiChoice pre-empts competition

Kimberly Guest
By Kimberly Guest, ITWeb contributor
Johannesburg, 21 Jun 2007

With competition for the pay television market on the way, MultiChoice says its investment in development of new platforms and delivery channels will enable it to retain top spot.

MultiChoice SA CEO Nolo Letele says the broadcaster faces several challenges as the television market undergoes significant changes.

"We have a lot of challenges facing us. We are subject to the whim of the regulator; there is competition entering the [pay-TV] market and content costs are skyrocketing. However, we believe we have the right strategies in place to address these challenges," he says.

An important part of this medium-term strategy is the development of new platforms and delivery channels to broaden offerings to clients. These include mobile TV, IPTV and video on demand.

However, some of these will require that technology neutrality be inherent in the new pay-TV licences currently being considered by regulator, Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA).

Letele says ICASA has committed to granting the licences by the end of November, with contract details concluded by March next year, enabling delivery of new services.

New offerings

Its newest company, DStv Mobile, is well into investigations of DVB-H technology for the delivery of TV services on mobile devices.

DStv Mobile CEO Linda Vermaas explains: "We launched a trial network last year and have had some really great feedback. However, we are still trying to figure out what the attraction of mobile TV is so that we can develop appropriate business models."

Vermaas says the company will be able to deliver mobile TV services "within months" of receiving appropriate licences and spectrum from ICASA.

Another trial under way is its delivery of content through the Internet, under the banner, DStv broadband.

Richard Fyffe, MultiChoice GM of new media, explains: "We are looking at delivering near VHS-quality content through our Web site. We see this as a value-add for subscribers where they can go online to view or download programmes that have appeared on our channels."

Fyffe says DStv broadband should be opened to public trials within the next few months but adds its success will be largely dependent on the South African uptake of broadband communication services.

MultiChoice is also working on an additional service for its DStv platform. Fyffe says it has a working prototype in place for its DStv Extra channel, which will deliver video on demand services to customers.

"It will be like having a video store on your decoder. A list of content, which has not necessarily been scheduled into our normal programming, will be available for viewing at any time," he explains.

The company is still deciding whether this would be a paid-for service but expects the technology to be ready for deployment later this year.

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