There is a “pretty good” chance that MultiChoice Group will launch its standalone “dishless” streaming product by the end of its financial year in March 2020, the company’s Connected Video CEO Niclas Ekdahl said on Thursday.
Speaking to TechCentral in Sandton, Ekdahl said the company has made significant progress in developing the dishless offering — which will use customers’ broadband connections rather than satellite for delivery — and will soon open it to external testers.
Until now, the product been tested internally only. The company had previously said it hoped to launch it commercially by the end of 2019.
The launch of the streaming-only offering will be a significant shift for a company that launched as a satellite direct-to-home (DTH) pay-television operator 24 years ago. Though it has offered the DStv Now streaming service for several years, access to it remains tied to a DTH subscription.
MultiChoice has greatly improved the DStv Now offering in the past year, Ekdahl said, with the company placing huge emphasis on improving the user experience and introducing new features such as personal recommendations, watchlists and user profiles.
“It’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears, “Ekdahl said. “We are now in a favourable position to launch dishless.”
He emphasised that although the dishless service will probably be ready by the end of March next year, it’s “still a work in progress” and that launch date has not yet been set in stone.
‘Proper user testing’
“We still want to do proper user testing in a real live environment, but the chances of launching by the end of March are pretty good.”
He declined to say whether the dishless product will have its own brand (something like DStv+, for example), or whether MultiChoice will use the DStv Now name. DStv Now will continue to be available as a product for DTH satellite subscribers, he said.
Though fixed broadband penetration in South Africa remains “meagre” relative to many developed markets, Ekdahl is convinced that launching the service makes commercial sense. “We have some thoughts about what we can achieve, but we don’t give (subscriber number) projections.”
Streaming services across MultiChoice’s markets in sub-Saharan Africa are growing more slowly than traditional satellite subscribers. “We can grow in both — there is a dual-growth opportunity. The risk of cannibalisation will always be there, but if that’s going to happen, we’d rather risk doing it to ourselves than someone else doing it to us.”
On when MultiChoice will offer streaming content in 4K resolution — it currently offers streams in up to 1080p — Ekdahl said the company is talking to content providers about securing 4K content but that it has “no firm plans” yet to offer it. “It’s still a niche part of the market and it’s still not top of our agenda, but … it’s something that’s coming closer in time. It’s getting closer to being a priority than it was a year ago.” — © 2019 NewsCentral Media