Pay-TV broadcasters MultiChoice, owner of DStv, and On Digital Media (ODM), which owns TopTV, have signalled their intention to fight a proposal by the National Consumer Commission that would, if implemented, force them to offer consumers the ability to pick and choose the channels they want to subscribe to.
The broadcasters had until yesterday to respond to compliance notices served on them by the commission, which wants them to offer a la carte channel options. At the moment, consumers have to buy channel bouquets, such as DStv Premium, which offer them a range of channels for a fixed monthly fee.
ODM CEO Vino Govender says the company will “repudiate” the commission’s “line of action” because it threatens its business model and could, if imposed, force the only pay-TV alternative to incumbent MultiChoice out of business.
Govender says ODM considered offering a la carte options before it launched TopTV but soon discovered the model made no financial sense as content providers would have hiked the cost of channels, sometimes by as much as 500%, meaning some channels on their own would cost subscribers R200/month. TopTV’s most expensive bouquet costs R269/month for dozens of channels. The commission’s proposal “makes no sense”, he says.
“If we had to try to remodel our entire business structure, it would do us serious harm,” Govender says. Offering channels individually would make the business case for TopTV unviable. “It could lead us to shutting down our business, which could put up to 6 000 jobs at risk.”
Govender says an industry colleague has likened the commission’s proposal to the commission insisting that crayon manufacturers sell different colours of their products in separate boxes, rather than selling the colours together in the same box.
He adds that ODM will also fight the commission on legal grounds as it believes the compliance notice served on the company did not follow “proper legal protocol”.
MultiChoice GM for corporate affairs Jackie Rakitla says the company is also filing an objection with the commission, but declines to provide more information. “We are not in a position to respond to any questions in this regard until the matter has been resolved at the consumer tribunal.” — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral
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