Platco Digital, the parent company of free-to-air satellite television broadcaster OpenView HD, hopes its decision to lease capacity on Intelsat’s IS20 satellite — the same satellite used by MultiChoice for DStv — will help it attract newly licensed pay-TV operators to its platform.
Platco announced last week that it had signed an agreement with state-owned broadcasting signal distributor Sentech to lease space on IS20. The company will continue offering OpenView HD on the SES5 satellite it launched on in October last year, so existing customers won’t be affected.
“We have designed our box so it can do pay television,” Platco Digital MD Maxwell Nonge tells TechCentral. “We would love to go to the new [pay-TV] licensees and say, ‘Why invest in set-top boxes if you can use the same box?’”
But he says the decision to use IS20 wasn’t driven by the desire to attract these pay-TV broadcasters. However, it could prove to be an “added advantage”.
Platco’s set-top box platform uses a conditional access system from Cisco, allowing broadcasters to encrypt their channels and charge for access.
In April, communications regulator Icasa issued provisional licences to five new pay-TV operators. This followed an exhaustive public hearings process in 2013. The new players are Close-T Broadcast Network Holdings, Siyaya, Kagiso TV, Mindset Media Enterprises and Mobile TV.
The main reason Platco has leased space on IS20, Nonge says, is to reduce barriers to consumer adoption of OpenView HD, which has signed up 49 000 viewers since launch a year ago. This number is well short of the company’s original projections.
Nonge says that by offering OpenView on IS20, the highly price-sensitive LSM4-7 customers that it’s targeting can use existing dish installations to access the service. Instead of installing a new dish, all consumers need to do now is buy the decoder, which costs R849 or less.
Unless consumers want to watch OpenView in a second room in the house, it’s now usually a do-it-yourself installation, reducing costs, Nonge says.
It also overcomes the problem in housing complexes and flats where there is one communal dish, typically pointed at IS20 and not SES5. “We were missing out on a whole market,” he says.
Nonge is hoping to bring the group’s news channel, eNCA, to OpenView HD, too. The channel is available exclusively through DStv. However, TechCentral understands reliably that that contract is ending soon and is being renegotiated with MultiChoice.
Nonge believes eNCA will make OpenView a more attractive platform to consumers hungry for news and information.
The company is also planning to expand elsewhere in Africa. It is negotiating its entry into other markets in the Southern African Development Community and is considering markets further afield, too. — (c) 2014 NewsCentral Media