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TopTV goes prepaid to lure subscribers

2012-08-17 08:22
toptv prepaid
Cape Town – On Digital Media (ODM) which operates the TopTV pay-TV platform in South Africa officially launched its TopTV prepaid voucher system, hoping to recapture many of the disconnected TopTV decoders as well as to win new subscribers.

TopTV's interim CEO Eddie Mbalo explained that it will now be using Pep Stores and Blue Label (the largest distributor of prepaid cellphone airtime in South Africa) as retail distributors.

"Now you can buy your TV like you buy your electricity," said Mbalo who said that TopTV is "reconfiguring the model for pay-TV" by introducing the TopTV prepaid voucher system as a South African first.

Grow subscriber base

The TopTV prepaid voucher system was delayed by over a month due to retail issues, but the first vouchers were already sold on Monday.

TopTV wants to get Spar as well as South Africa's four biggest commercial banks on board.

They also want to renew the effort to grow their subscriber base by capturing the unbanked market, those who don't want pay-TV contract accounts because of the lack of money to make monthly debit orders feasible, and recapture the massive number of deactivated former TopTV subscribers who already have decoders, but who are not using them.

Want to reactivate subscribers

TopTV said the pay-TV operator is focusing strongly on subscribers and potential subscribers living outside of main urban centres and television viewers in the lower income bracket.

Subscribers can use their cellphones – or even someone else's cellphone - to input and activate a voucher and their TopTV decoder since the decoder's smart card number is keyed into a cellphone with the voucher number.

TopTV prepaid vouchers will be available at 6 000 retail outlets countrywide; TopTV plans to increase it to 100 000.

"We have in the region of 400 000 TopTV decoder boxes out there," said Mbalo, "and in many instances people can't pay month to month or don't have money in their bank account when the debit order is activated. We want to reactivate those customers."

TopTV prepaid vouchers are available in two "denominations": R109 for a 30-day period for the Variety package, and R279 for a 30-day period for the Ultimate package.

The Ultimate package has 62 channels. These two packages are the lowest (cheapest) and highest (most expensive) two bouquets TopTV offer out of its tiered channels' offering. TopTV said 80% of its existing active subscriber base on contract is on one of these two packages and that the company therefore decided to start off by offering these two on a prepaid basis.

SMS reminders

The two types of vouchers each cost R10 more than what normal contract subscribers pay since TopTV has to include an administration and distribution fee to pay resellers who offer the vouchers on their behalf.

A bought voucher must be used within a period of 3 years. TopTV prepaid customers will get a SMS reminder 5 days before their 30-day package is due to expire so they can buy a new voucher. They will get a second SMS reminder 5 days after their 30-day package has expired.

There's no reconnection fee between recharges and no hidden costs. Recharge instructions are simple and a help menu is clear and has several options.

TopTV said the TopTV prepaid voucher system also frees subscribers from calling the call centre (although they still can). "Many subscribers and ordinary consumers simply don't have the money to be on the line with a call centre," said Mbalo.

TopTV prepaid subscribers can upgrade from the Variety package to the Ultimate package anytime and will get an automatic subscription days remaining extension. Subscribers can also downgrade from Ultimate to Variety, although only at the end of the current 30-day period.

TopTV also hopes that it will alleviate pressure on the TopTV call centre, but said TopTV isn't downsizing or doing away with its call centre. "It's merely another option."

Working on new strategies

"We're taking our position as a market disruptor very seriously and we will be introducing a number of market firsts besides the TopTV prepaid voucher system in the next few upcoming months as South Africa's 2nd pay-TV player," said Mbalo.

"The vast majority of South Africans live far away from banks and urban centres," said Kgomotso Lekola, TopTV's chief operating officer (COO). "So if TopTV wants to enter into transactions with them, we wil have to make it easy, hence the prepaid model."

Mbalo said TopTV has been looking at its entire pay-TV business, operational model and management and that it has implemented a turnaround strategy which is currently being carried out.

"The first major part is making TopTV accessible to TopTV subscribers. We conducted focus groups and questionnaires and we took a serious look at what is the content that our subscribers want and are looking for, and we're working on new content strategies to serve our subscribers' needs."

*Do you think TopTV wil gain more subscribers by implementing this system? Write us a letter and get published!

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