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MultiChoice takes war to Netflix with new tech

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 20 Aug 2020

Pay-TV operator MultiChoice is harnessing the power of technology to fend off competition from video-streaming services such as Netflix.

Yesterday, the company announced what it dubs its “largest offering of new products, programmes and value bundles in over 10 years” on the DStv platform.

Since Netflix entered the South African market in 2016, it has given MultiChoice a serious run for its money, with premium subscribers leaving in droves in favour of the US-based video-on-demand service.

As the company felt the pressure, MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela told ITWeb that Netflix and over-the-top (OTT) players such as Amazon Prime, Google and Facebook were presenting a serious threat to local players.

Now the company has responded aggressively to the OTT players, saying it is harnessing the power of technology innovation to bring the best content and an unprecedented digital user-experience.

“As Africa’s most-loved storyteller, we provide our customers with innovative products to enhance their viewing experience, great local and international content that resonates with them, and a range of added-value services,” says Mawela.

“Our customers are at the core of what we do, and we strive to deliver a variety of content to all the markets we operate in, remaining authentic to our African audience and bringing the world back home,” he adds.

The company says the arrival of an array of new technology and product enhancements has seen DStv open up a new world of choice for customers.

It notes the new products also make it easier for DStv customers to enjoy content from third-party streaming services on the DStv platform.

New products include the DStv Explora Ultra for third-party streaming apps, DStv Streama, Showmax Pro – which brings sports content to Showmax – and Add Movies to get M-Net’s three movie channels added to their bouquet, as well as an improved DStv Now app to join and stream the DStv packages directly.

“MultiChoice remains the biggest investor in local content on the continent, spending R6.2 billion on locally-produced content in the past financial year,” explains Yolisa Phahle, CEO of general entertainment and connected video at MultiChoice.

Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, comments that of the OTT players available, Netflix in particular shook MultiChoice out of the complacency brought about by decades of dominating TV entertainment across Africa.

“It was obvious that Netflix would spell the end of pay-TV if the latter didn't reinvent itself, and MultiChoice began that process in 2015 with the launch of Showmax. That wasn't just a case of foresight in fending off the streaming giant, but also the beginning of a shift in corporate culture, from a decoder-centric mindset to a steaming-centric focus.”

However, Goldstuck points out that DStv is not so much competing with the streaming services as co-opting them.

“It is not too surprising, then, that the competition authorities are scrutinising the deal with Netflix and Amazon, as it represents a fairly cosy situation for the dominant market player in this country and across Africa.”

Goldstuck is of the view that DStv has a simple value proposition that streaming does not have.

“DStv can continue expanding across the continent regardless of broadband infrastructure or penetration. Its customer base keeps growing due to the low cost of satellite dishes and basic decoders, and its range of affordable bouquets.”