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Super5 gets another six months

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Pay-TV newcomer Super5Media has failed to meet its extended deadline and has now been granted yet another six-month extension by the regulator. However, it appears increasingly likely that the company is going under.

Manager of media and stakeholder liaisons at the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) Paseka Maleka confirms that the authority has granted the media house another six-month extension, since it failed to meet its September go-live deadline.

The service provider was expected to become operational by the middle of this year. However, it applied to ICASA for an extension to go live in September and has not met this deadline either. The company has, as yet, not provided any information about its expected arrival on the pay-TV scene.

“In its written submission, the company stated that its application for an Individual Electronic Communications Network Service (I-ECNS) licence to self-provide has yet to be finalised by the authority,” adds Maleka.

He explains that Super5Media says it intends to provide its own signal distribution for the service.

“The authority has indeed deliberated on Super5Media's application for an I-ECNS licence and it intends to make its decision known in a week or two.”

In terms of whether or not the new deadline will be met, ICASA says it cannot pre-empt what is going to happen in the next six months, and whether the company would need another extension or not.

“However, we expect the company to launch its services well within the six months requested or by the end of the six months.”

Going under

Maleka says that, despite what has appeared in the media, there has not been any formal communication about Super5Media going into liquidation.

However, former employees of the company, who prefer not to be named, say it has closed down, and about 40 staff members have been retrenched. “We were given retrenchment letters from June already,” they told ITWeb this morning.

Media reports say applicants for the liquidation of the company have confirmed that a liquidation application for Super 5Media was submitted.

In terms of the extended application, a previous employee of Super5Media says: “I think they are still hopeful that they can make something happen.”

The pay-TV operator could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

Good cause?

Maleka explains that, in terms of ICASA regulations, when an applicant is granted a licence it is required to begin providing a service within a certain period from the date the licence was issued.

However, the licensee can apply to the authority and request an extension and, on good cause shown, the date for commencement can be extended. This, however, does not change the terms of the licence.

While the company has missed the September deadline, newly licensed competitor On Digital Media (ODM) continues to capture market share.

ODM has roped in 73 000 subscribers since June, when it started its satellite service, and the company is installing around 800 satellite dishes every day countrywide. Its Top TV service runs 55 channels in various bouquets, priced between R99 and R249 a month.

Super5Media hopes to come to market with three offerings, including Internet services, IPTV and a satellite service. The company has long maintained that its licence is the only one that allows for IP-based services.

Competitive player

The company hoped to bring its own product to South Africans soon after the release of Top TV, with the aim of keeping the market equal.

The idea to license the two new broadcasters was to maintain a competitive environment, and not end up with yet another dominant player, the regulator explained at the time of licensing.

Super5Media has had a troubled start to life, with regulatory and shareholder troubles holding back its initial plans to bring a new service to local TV viewers.

Speculation of shareholder troubles between its majority shareholder, Shenzhen Media, and the minority stakeholders may also be keeping it from bringing a new service to market.

Failure to launch

Telkom created Telkom Media in August 2006 with an empowerment shareholding. The subsidiary was awarded a commercial satellite and cable subscription broadcast licence from ICASA in September of the following year.

However, the concept never got off the ground and Telkom decided to shed its stake in the company in March 2008.

Telkom was not able to get its price for the unit and the fixed-line operator decided to abandon it. In May 2009, Telkom sold its stake for a nominal amount of R68 million to Chinese-owned Shenzen Media SA.

The unit was renamed Super5Media and was initially expected to become operational by the middle of this year.

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