Platco hopes to attract pay-TV players - TechCentral

Platco hopes to attract pay-TV players

Maxwell Nonge

Maxwell Nonge

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

26 Comments

  1. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>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.

    This is the kind of “Open” OpenView honesty that would get my support. I already have a FreeVision STB but honestly speaking “OpenView” for some reason has a better sounding “ring” to the name.

    I’m guessing that since the Freevision STBs currently in the market are using Nagravision and not Cisco we have another dilemma; otherwise the article would’ve also noted the opportunity to add the existing customer base to this figure of 49K rather than just mentioning the hope to attract the DStv customer base.

    Anyways it’s a step in the right direction from the blunder of having opted to go onto SES5. And now, after all the FUSS about FTA channels having CA it would appear that the best way to have this work effectively and to maximize value on the IS20 platform, would be to have the FTA channels un-encrypted and freely available across a Cisco, Nagravision as well as an Irdeto system.

  2. OpenView HD set top boxes are selling for R650 to R700 on special deals. You get 18 FREE channels per month – including SABC 1, 2 and 3. Mahala. These are high definition set top boxes. More and more people will use FREE to air television and the new Video on Demand from Times Media. Is it really necessary to go ahead with digital migration or should government use all the spectrum for Internet and cell phones?

  3. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    With both the TV white spaces trials that have been conducted thus far proving no interference to the current analogue broadcast signals; I would have to say that you may have a point there.

    There are already such Hybrid technologies as HbbTV and RadioDNS that can bring additional feature rich online functionality to the analogue broadcast signals and you could therefore drive satellite as the primary option whilst still enhancing the existing analogue platform using broadband apps like those available with HbbTV and RadioDNS working on the TV white spaces.

    Once you’ve moved most people and services to satellite you could then consider a switch-off of the analogue broadcast signals and all the spectrum to be used for Internet and cell phones. Its a bold move but one which would probably work for our market in particular.

  4. That’s not going to happen. Sentech is a 100% State Owned Enterprise. The change to DTT means about 1/3 as many transmitters – and the new digital stuff is cheaper. Going satellite would mean that they would only need 1/10th of their staff, instead of only 1/3rd. In their infinite wisdom, our Government thinks that “job creation” includes jobs funded by the taxpayer …

  5. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>Going satellite would mean that they would only need 1/10th of their staff, instead of only 1/3rd.

    Going satellite also means more opportunity with broadband and that is where “job creation” will be realized. Even the SABC in a digital era will need to rightsize to about 1/3rd of its present staff compliment…

    …but those jobs lost are also again created through the new opportunities that are still to be tapped into in the digital era.

  6. Greg Mahlknecht on

    >OpenView HD set top boxes are selling for R650 to R700 on special deals

    Excludes dish + installation which at least doubles that cost.

  7. Yes. BUT: If you use your current DSTV dish you have no extra costs. AND: please do not forget that DVB-T2 requires new antennae as well.
    All those sick and tired of the high cost of DSTV can now easily just plug into an OpenViewHD set top box and enjoy 18 FREE channels.

  8. Greg Mahlknecht on

    R700 includes the antenna, as I understand it. They’re cheap and easy to self-install. I know, I’m in a bad signal area and I’ve bought and installed a cheap one.

    Existing DSTV dish? Will have to be repositioned and you lose DSTV access – if you’re a DSTV subscriber those 18 channels will almost certainly be of no interest to you, and will most probably be on one of the cheaper packages as they make up the bulk of DSTV’s subscriber base. 18 free channels is no reason either, as there would be more on DTT.

  9. Wrong! “OpenView HD, hopes its decision to lease capacity on Intelsat’s IS20 satellite — the same satellite used byMultiChoice for DStv “. You don’t have to reposition your DSTV dish. A lot of people opt for a dual LNB that enables them to watch DSTV plus OpenViewHD using the same dish.
    If you want a good DVB-T2 antenna – not a cheap one – you’ll have to pay a few hundred. This will help with good high definition reception.
    OpenViewHD do have a number of great channels not available on DSTV.

  10. Greg Mahlknecht on

    My bad. My point still stands though – the majority of the population need the dish installation to happen. That is prohibitively expensive.

    >If you want a good DVB-T2 antenna – not a cheap one – you’ll have to pay a few hundred

    Wrong! I’ve gone through the antenna purchasing process and can speak with firsthand experience that the cheapies worked. In fact my R60 one worked better than a R350 one I already had, as it was smaller and easier to put in a convenient place.

    Also, the decoders are imported, not locally manufactured (I found reference to a spokesperson saying “the next shipment is expected to reach South Africa…”), so this idea is a non-starter anyway.

    The government would have to allocate R1800 per household for subsidization, and EVERY qualifying household would claim whether they have a dish or not, because hey – free stuff! Just not economically viable.

  11. A quick trip through Alexandra. Mamelodi, Soweto, Soshunguve, etc will change your perception. Millions of people can afford a dish and a decoder. OpenViewHD is far better than entry level DSTV packages.
    You must have noticed the growing number of OpenViewHD installations trucks all over SA?

  12. Greg Mahlknecht on

    DSTV release the subscriber numbers. No trips or anecdotal evidence is necessary. The numbers speak for themselves. The majority of households will need dishes, and those who have will probably claim anyway.

    It costs R29/month to get a better DSTV bouquet than the free OpenViewHD one, and that’s the most entry level one you can get. Those “millions of people” you mention can afford that!

    > You must have noticed the growing number of OpenViewHD installations trucks all over SA?

    As mentioned, a bit of anecdotal evidence isn’t a good thing to extrapolate in to a comprehensive communications policy for the decades ahead.

  13. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    The situation that you’re now having is where most services are on IS20. Its not a question of pushing OVHD, Freevision or DStv but a matter of looking into how to effectively maximize capacity on the IS20 bird.

    The best way forward is for the FTA services which includes community TV to be available un-encrypted across all the STBs through the same channels regardless of whether the STB supports Irdeto, Nagravision or Cisco encryption for the Paid services.

    With the large majority of people then being able to move onto satellite the economies of scale will drastically reduce the costs of installation plus STBs to the consumer. It is therefore possible to consider DTH as your primary option and then support it with redundancy over IP as a secondary option.

    That eliminates the need for a DTT switch-on and the Hybrid technologies already available are capable of seamless switching to select the best available signal; be it analogue, IP or other such digital signals as on DTH or DAB.

    Your main focus, will thus be on an analogue switch-off and the Hybrid technologies deployed, utilizing the TV white spaces will still be effective when you switch-off the analogue signals to seamlessly switch between your primary DTH platform and your secondary platform over IP.

    That will be useful when you’re having adverse weather which disrupt DTH signals but probably will be the most useful in reducing bandwidth load when the DTH signal is the best option to switch to.

    All of this is actually very much feasible and can be deployed in a shorter time than it would take to get the final policy from government. In the relatively near future almost all media will be consumed over IP, so all you’re looking for in that scenario is a means of reducing bandwidth load for services that are streamed LIVE and a primary DTH platform will suffice for that.

  14. Repeating expensive mistakes!! Sentech was forced by Botswana TV to control access to their Vivid Decoder. If you go for un-encrypted channels you’ll see another Court Case.
    DTH should become the first choice because of all the new offers. TV4U will launch on 1 Feb.
    You are spot on with HbbTV – hybrid – services. People just love On Demand Television.

  15. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    So now having three CA systems duplicated with the same such services as SABC on one bird becomes viable when you’re pushing your own interests…? What happened to the ridiculousness of having SABC duplicated on across multiple platforms?

    There’s only one expensive mistake probably as a result of those who have listened to such people as yourself who are just having an obvious agenda of pushing their own interests rather than looking at holistically solving the serious problem that we now find ourselves in because of the foolishness of insisting on CA for FTA signals.

    Paying to be on SES5 and now having to continue with that when the best choice would’ve been to have worked with Sentech in the first place is another such smart decision from the likes of people who think like you. I’m sure there’s plenty of shareholders applauding that particular decision along with the outstanding take-up of less than 50K.

  16. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Have you ever considered that maybe what ETV in Botswana should do is provide a service that will be better than that of the SABC in the same way that DStv needs to up it’s game against the likes of Netflix rather than looking at feeble legalities.

    For all the money that they waste on court cases and meaningless victories, I still don’t see them offering the consumer quality programming and content that proves them to better than the SABC… even in countries outside of our borders they are still pathetic and people prefer SABC.

    If they are going to be continuing with the current reasoning and rational – Multichoice is undoubtedly going to crush them in the digital era. SABC has nothing to worry about, for as long as we’re all forced to pay our taxes, they are guaranteed a bail-out whenever they need it.

  17. Botswana TV vs Sentec was not about free to air or TV channels but advertising income. International and multi country companies placed ads on SABC Vivid for all to see.
    It is about advertising income and not anything else!!

  18. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>International and multi country companies placed ads on SABC Vivid for all to see.

    Dude listen to yourself…

    So the fact that most people in Botswana preferred to (see) ads on SABC Vivid content rather than ads on ETV had absolutely nothing to do with it…?

    I’m now convinced (as if I wasn’t before) that there must be several people who have foolishly listened to the likes of you, thus landing us in the position we now find ourselves in.

  19. Ofentse Letsholo on

    Yeah i was wondering as to why eNCA was not on the platform but thanks for the clarity. I do hope they do well, more channels especially in Full HD will be more attractive.

  20. Vusi – according to you “The best way forward is for the FTA services which includes community TV to be available un-encrypted across all the STBs”?
    If they listen to you we’ll see another court case to stop what you are preaching? You want unencrypted community TV plus all other FTA channels to repeat the Sentech Vivid Saga? And you think Botswana and others will except it? I’m now convinced that there must be several people who have foolishly listened to the likes of you?

  21. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    You know, I had to work with a team of people just like you, all excited and arrogant about running a channel on TopTV when they launched in 2010 and my position was that TopTV will be dead in 3years.

    I was responding to you right here on TC when I also said that OVHD would have to move onto the Sentech platform… and lets not forget that my engagement here on TC began when I refuted the fact that SABC would be tied up with ETV and as time proved it seems the SABC had its own ideas of getting into bed with DStv over a News & Entertainment channel deal.

    There’s no new entrant that would stand a chance against Multichoice should the game be played solely on a CA platform and just like the decision to go with SES5 for the launching of OVHD has burnt, its just a matter of time and the position on CA will come back to bite.

  22. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    The new digital era is such that territorial boundaries of the past are impossible to enforce. Media players can go online and cut across boundaries and believing that you’re somehow going to enforce outdated legislation to secure existing ad revenue streams is fighting a hopeless cause.

    Advertisers are finding more cost effective solutions for targeting and the expensive traditional broadcast platform models of the past that some broadcasting are believing will continue to sustain them will soon be drying up. Those who are awake to this reality are the ones who will ensure that they have quality content which audiences will prefer to watch over any other competing player irrespective of territorial boundaries or broadcast platform.

    Surely the fact that this digital migration process has dragged on for so long to the point that we are now months away from the deadline should tell you that you should’ve been well prepared and placed your eggs in more than just one basket than being so desperate in trying to drive your own vested interests when there’s the real possibility that those interests won’t be realized.

  23. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Unfortunately what they know, is only that which benefits the immediate short-term and so trying to retain existing jobs will be a priority… 🙁

    No one wants to think in terms of a decade or 2 decades from now but the irony is that even the decisions taken by them for the short-term, end up taking longer than a decade to implement.

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