M-Net: Digital TV delays negative

2012-04-17 07:43
Thinus Ferreira
Cape Town – The numerous delays of the successful commercial implementation of digital terrestrial television (DTT) in South Africa is having a "uniquely negative impact" on M-Net, the South African pay TV broadcaster has told South Africa's broadcasting regulator.

South Africa's transition to DTT, a process known as digital migration is mired in long running government and broadcasting industry gridlock with several other countries having passed South Africa in the migration process.

The process has to be completed internationally by June 2015.

The government recently pushed the commercial launch date back yet again to September of this year.

The department of communications is warning TV viewers that they will have to pay R700 for a set top box (STB) to decode the digital TV signals or lose their signals once the analogue TV signals are switched off.

Plummeting subscriber numbers

In a document regarding South Africa's digital migration regulations to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), M-Net says the delay in starting DTT is hurting the pay TV broadcaster which has its own STB for subscribers to decode its analogue signals.

M-Net will have to market and sell a new DVB-T2 decoder when it starts to broadcast its digital signal and a brand-new bouquet of several new M-Net channels, but can't yet do so.

Meanwhile M-Net stopped selling its analogue decoders years ago because the pay TV company didn't feel that it would be right to sell "old" outdated technology to subscribers. The result is plummeting subscriber numbers for M-Net.

"As far back as 2001 M-Net commenced testing digital terrestrial television. In February 2007, when the then-minister announced that cabinet had approved 1 November 2008 for digital switch-on, M-Net decided to stop selling analogue STBs, since we felt that we couldn't continue to sell those to subscribers in the knowledge that this technology would soon become redundant.

"This has now meant that M-Net has been unable to maintain and grow its subscriber base.

"In addition, the ageing analogue technology used by our existing subscribers has become expensive to maintain and repair," said M-Net.

Endless delays

"The endless delays over the past four and a half years in finalising the framework for the migration to digital television in South Africa has exacerbated these negative consequences for M-Net’s television subscription business," explained M-Net. "The further delay of the commencement of DTT will only compound these difficulties."

M-Net warns in its submission that "the absence of an attractive digital television offering will undermine consumer adoption of DTT".

Cheaper options available

At the last meeting on DTT of parliament's portfolio committee on communications, M-Net showed and explained to government that expensive STB are not necessary and argued for much cheaper STBs, also called "digital converters".

 M-Net explained to government that STBs or "digital converters" are actually available and could retail for R350 or less which has all the functionality and can do exactly what the government wants it to do with DTT.

M-Net showed examples of the devices to government. The pay TV broadcaster said STB technology would eventually be built into TV sets and that the "very expensive" STB option of R700 is only supposed to be an interim solution.



  • bluzulu - 2012-04-17 07:53

    ""Plummeting subscriber numbers"" This is due to the demands placed on consumers and not this issue, Multichoice.

  • CharlesDumbwin - 2012-04-17 07:59

    As long as Multichoice doesn't think the MNET-only subscribers are going to simply convert to full-blown DSTV !!! The National Consumer Protection Act will ensure that MNET-paying customers are entitled to continue to pay for and receive the MNET bundle of programmes. We will NOT be 'forced' to move to the more expensive DSTV !!! That will NEVER be legal Multichoice !!!

  • Rose - 2012-04-17 08:22


  • hugo.smith2 - 2012-04-17 08:24

    Mnet, the delcine in subscriber numbers are not due to this, but due to your ever increasing costs and decline in new shows-only re-runs!!!! Stop blamimg other things and look at yourself!

  • Monti - 2012-04-17 08:28

    The struggle continues. Shame what a useless bunch of cattle.

  • Pieter - 2012-04-17 08:48

    R700 ??? When they changed to digital in the UK, you could get the basic STBs for between £10 to £20 (R120 to R240). Someone's lining their pockets yet again :-(

  • Colin - 2012-04-17 08:56

    And now we are bidding for the SKA? Fat chance.

  • johan.blertsie.cilliers - 2012-04-17 09:18

    Must say, I got myself the cheapest TopTV option and it's got the enough channels to be interesting for the little while we actually watch TV.

  • roberta.keeling - 2012-04-17 10:01

    Of course SABC will sell the DTT's at R700,00 where the cost should not exceed R350,00. Someone has to pocket additionl funds for his/her retirement!

  • Eric - 2012-04-17 10:13

    My frustrations with Mnet and DSTV have also reached boiling point, and I have no sympathy for them. All shows are littered with ads, and some shows have more ads than actual programming. Not to even mention the fact that more than 80% of the content on DSTV is old reruns of shows. I honestly wish you could get Supersport on TopTv. Then most of us would propably migrate so fast Multichoice would have a complete meltdown...

  • Rob - 2012-04-17 11:10

    Rand 700 for a facility that is already built into TVs in other countries for a few dollars more!!! Look through it and see that R700 is simply another anc sponsored rip-off to tax some of the community. Go computer!

  • Reginald - 2012-04-17 12:25

    everybody who owns a decoder should read as it concerns them

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