New TopTV CEO: We made mistakes

2012-02-10 08:34
Thinus Ferreira
Cape Town – In a very honest, very open and at times painfully frank interview, Eddie Mbalo, the new acting CEO of South Africa's pay TV operator TopTV – speaking publicly for the very first time since he took over the reins of the troubled pay TV service a week ago from Vino Govender – humbly said TopTV "have made some mistakes" but adds that "there is new thinking at TopTV – it's a new beginning".

The past two months TopTV was pummelled in the press and by the public after much maligned porn plans leaked as the pay TV provider battled growing investor pressure over a weak content offering, subscriber backlash over content and service and increasing industry scepticism.

Despite the daunting challenges, the new acting CEO who ran the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) for almost a decade since 2001, is adamant that there's definitely a place for TopTV and a second pay TV service in South Africa and that TopTV can and is filling that space.

Mbalo promises a more transparent business and more information sharing with stakeholders as TopTV moves into the future, saying TopTV will be taking a critical look at its content offering.

'Long, hard look at ourselves'

"It's fair to say that we have made some mistakes and not delivered on all of our promises. But the current review we are doing of the business presents us with an opportunity to take a long, hard look at ourselves, to fix what needs fixing, to acknowledge what we are doing right and to improve in those areas where we are performing badly," he said.

"Many start-ups face immense challenges like we are currently experiencing, but we still feel like we always did when TopTV started – there is definitely a place for a second pay TV operator in South Africa and we are confident that we can fill that space with fresh programming, innovation and excellent customer service."

About TopTV porn package plans which met major public resistance, had TopTV slapped with a court interdict and the application eventually rejected by South Africa's broadcasting regulator, Mbalo says TopTV is "disappointed with the outcome" and that "as is often the case, the detractors to adult content are more vocal".

"It was always our intention to offer the three adult content channels as a completely separate package to the current TopTV channel offerings and we had put in all the necessary security checks and balances to ensure this would be the case." He said TopTV is awaiting the reasons from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) as to why the application was turned down before On Digital Media (ODM) will decide how to proceed.

Mbalo says an outside consultancy has been brought in to work with the pay TV operator over the next few months "to review all areas of the business and help us devise a roadmap for the future".

Critical look at content offering

"In the next 30 days we will conduct a full review of the business. We will look at where we currently stand and from there, we will develop a clear and coherent strategy addressing each area of the business to ensure we are competitive and relevant within the pay TV market in South Africa."

"We need to look at our service, we need to listen to what our customers are saying, we need to take a critical look at our content offering," said Mbalo.

"We have some strong content such as Fox and our movies. We have lost some content due to channels going into liquidation, for example, and were looking to introduce what has become rather controversial content. We need to understand clearly what our content and innovation strategy is," he said.

"I really think we need to be more communicative going forward. I promise that we will be more open in sharing information about the business with our key stakeholders including our subscribers, the media, advertisers and out staff. There is new thinking at TopTV – it's a new beginning," said Mbalo.

"I understand content, I understand the market and I'm confident about moving this business forward."


  • Donald - 2012-02-10 09:03

    Yes, so take ICASA to the Constitutional Court!

  • Ian - 2012-02-10 09:14

    its simple really, HBO, SHOWTIME AND STARZ, along with live sport,(cricket,(all the games) rugby and golf , until then I am not interested, I have to stick with dstv for my sport requirements which you have to subscribe to the full premium package for which is a rip off but I love my cricket so that is that

  • Byron - 2012-02-10 09:17

    get better programs

      Ian - 2012-02-10 09:24

      more like subscribe to better networks not the cheap rerun crap, aka dstv, like I said I want my sport live esp cricket so what choice do I have, In the US I could subscribe to the cricket channel, all the games , no boquet BS

  • Dalai - 2012-02-10 09:22

    We have an overkill of bonking programmes on telly already...think out of the box.

  • Kerry - 2012-02-10 11:42

    More South African sports channels will go a long way. I love my man utd channel but want to watch the local rugby games now and again.

  • Keith.R25 - 2012-02-10 12:56

    More sport (including fishing) better quality of programming and no repeats ala DSTV

  • Compos - 2012-02-10 13:11

    I have moved from DSTV to TOP TV and I am quite happy. You get the same crap as with DSTV just for less..... but they have two classical music channels. And for that alone I will pay the R200 odd rand.

  • Khutšo MamaTshego le Mpho - 2012-02-10 13:37

    we need our african movies and music please, im dying just approach any channel that plays Nigerian movies please.

  • Selma - 2012-02-12 12:37


  • Ryan - 2012-02-12 19:38

    Screw African content, Screw sport, Screw cheap ass crap. Premium American Channels. Premium British channels. Sci FI. Movies Documentries Cooking shows News Cartoons Loads of Action

  • ORAPELENG1 - 2012-02-12 20:12

    we want african and mzansi programs please,including nigerian movies please.

  • Mattewis - 2012-02-14 15:33

    I really hope this last statement is really true! Over the past 18 months TopTV was really absolutely closed! You subscribe for receiving newsletters, and absolutely nothing! The most fundamental aspect is PVR function. They can argue that they are new, but unfortunately you have to compete at today's technology level and not 1997's! Improve content for children, as well as light entertainment. Let's face it, with the exception of Fox Retro, the Fox channels are really not child-friendly! If you can add another retro-type channel, I'm sure you'll have a hit. We really hope the new beginning isn't a quick demise!

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