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TopTV: Discovery channels disappear

2013-05-03 08:48
Discovery channels disappear
Cape Town – Discovery Networks International's three Discovery TV channels disappeared from TopTV without any warning or explanation on Thursday - a day after the struggling South African pay-TV operator celebrated its third birthday.

Discovery Science (TopTV 302), ID: Investigation Discovery (TopTV 303) and TLC (TopTV 453) all went dark without warning as TopTV was scrambling to fix the problem.

All three channels – similar to all of the Discovery channels on MultiChoice's DStv service – are provided by Discovery Networks International CEEMEA (Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa region).

TLC (DStv 172) and ID: Investigation Discovery (DStv 171) - which ironically aired a show entitled Disappeared on Thursday evening – are both also available on DStv and broadcast of these channels on DStv remain uninterrupted and unaffected by the TopTV debacle.

TopTV could not explain the cause

Channel24 approached Discovery Networks International CEEMEA about the missing Discovery channels, but there was no immediate answer. When TopTV was approached for comment about the Discovery channels blackout, TopTV said they were "trying to get the problem sorted out with Discovery".

TopTV could not explain what caused the Discovery blackout, why it happened, what went wrong, or when – or if – the three Discovery channels will be restored.

Angry TopTV subscribers are fuming about the missing Discovery channels with no indication of why Discovery Science, ID and TLC suddenly disappeared.

TopTV failed to talk to its customers or to give bewildered subscribers any reasons for the missing channels. This loss of content follows the loss of several TV channels on the operator's platform - which is currently in business rescue.

Likewise, Discovery Networks International CEEMEA did not offer an explanation as to why subscribers are having to pay for channels they cannot access.

The three missing Discovery TV channels simply displays an on-air sentence: "We apologise for the break in transmission and will be back shortly."

TopTV subscribers at a loss

This message is exactly the same one TopTV displayed when other TV channels on its bouquet ceased - and never returned. This leaves TopTV subscribers – especially pre-paid customers who pay their monthly subscriptions upfront at the start of the month – at a loss.

While TopTV's normal channel offering keeps dwindling, TopTV has put focus and effort behind a second attempt – which was approved by South Africa's broadcasting regulator Icasa – to launch a separate porn bouquet with three adult channels from Playboy.

No start date for the porn channels has been announced. The porn bouquet will carry a classification of R18 and fTopTV now have to register as a porn distributor with South Africa's Film and Publication Board (FPB) before broadcasting the adult content.

TopTV would have gone dark on Tuesday night as channel and content suppliers were ready to turn off the taps to their content if ODM failed to get approval for business rescue plan bail-out proposed by Chinese media group StarTimes. Shareholders voted overwhelmingly to approve the bail-out deal.

Owing millions to content providers

It's possible that Discovery Networks International decided to pull their channels off of TopTV at the end of April anyway, similar to what Manchester United Television (MUTV) did in November and Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) did in December when Turner yanked its three channels – Showtime, Silver and Star! – from TopTV's line-up.

It's now come to light that TopTV owes millions to several content providers who've decided to pull their TV channels from TopTV due to outstanding debt.

TopTV owes Fox International a massive R43.8m which amounts to 3% overall of TopTV's debt to creditors. Warner Bros is owed R25.4m, Paramount is owed R13.1m and Manchester United Television - R9.5m, Turner Broadcasting - R6.4m and The Walt Disney Company R7.2m.
* Channel24 and DStv are owned by Naspers.

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