SA pay-TV playing field opens up

13 September 2007

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) this week awarded new broadcasting licences to Telkom Media, e-SAT, On Digital Media and Walking on Water, ending Multichoice Africa’s 12-year monopoly over the South African pay-TV market.

Icasa said in a statement that it hoped increased competition would boost job creation, promote the involvement of previously disadvantaged people in the sector, ensure a wider range of content and increase access to affordable subscription television services.

Multichoice South Africa chief executive Nolo Letele welcomed the move, saying that competition would attract investment in the broadcasting industry and the South African economy in general.

“It will also stimulate growth of the pay television market and ensure that consumers are provided with choice and more diversity of content,” Letele said on their company website.

Business Day reports that Telkom Media, a subsidiary of fixed-line telecoms provider Telkom, has committed over R7-billion over the next 10 years to developing its platform, while On Digital Media – whose shareholders include the African subsidiary of European satellite services company SES – have secured over R1-billion to launch their service.

e-SAT, which is part of JSE-listed Hosken Consolidate Investments, did not disclose what amount they would invest in their service. HCI also owns the country’s only free-to-air channel, e.tv.

According to Screen Africa, Walking on Water aims to offer a wide range of programmes based on “Christian lifestyle principles” via satellite.

Eighteen companies originally applied for licences when the process began in August 2006. Three applicants, including a joint venture between the South African Broadcasting Corporation and state-owned signals provider Sentech, later withdrew their applications.

The regulator gave no reasons as to why the other 10 applications were turned down, saying only that details would be released within the next three weeks.

SAinfo reporter

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