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Analysis

The DStv Channel Slump, by Myles Illidge

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MultiChoice’s DStv has significantly slowed its channel additions and removals over the past two years, adding just three channels since 15 December 2022.

The pay-TV broadcaster has seen its South African subscriber growth slow considerably over the past five years and begin to decline, placing it under substantial financial pressure.

DStv has added one and removed one channel from its catalogue so far in 2024. However, the removal wasn’t its decision.

WildEarth — formerly channel 183 — was pulled from DStv on 30 April after the channel’s chair, André Crawford-Brunt, said it isn’t viable for the company to continue airing its content on DStv without compensation.

On 1 April, DStv added the channel 1Max, offering Premium and Compact Plus subscribers access to select content from MultiChoice’s Showmax.

The pay-TV broadcaster added only two channels and removed one throughout 2023.

However, 2022 is a stark comparison. DStv added seven channels and removed four over the year.

The MultiChoice-owned broadcaster saw its overall subscriber numbers decline for the first time during the first half of the 2023/24 financial year — a first for the broadcaster.

MultiChoice reports its 90-day active DStv subscriber figures in three segments as follows:

Premium — Premium and Compact Plus
Mid-market — Compact, Family, and Commercial
Mass market — Extra, Access, EasyView
Premium segment subscribers declined by between 2% and 9% yearly from September 2019 to September 2023.

Mid-market segment subscribers last grew between September 2020 and September 2021. They have been on a decline since.

The Mass market had relatively high subscriber growth between September 2019 and September 2021. However, DStv reported a decline for the segment between September 2022 and September 2023.

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A likely driver behind these declines is the pressure DStv is facing from international streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Netflix.

These services are significantly more affordable than DStv’s decoder and streaming packages, and often offer more flexibility.

South Africa’s Department of Communications and Digital Technologies acknowledge the threat posed to broadcasters by streaming services in its annual performance plan for 2024/25.

“On-demand music and video online streaming services are seriously disrupting the industry globally,” it stated

Some subscribers who dumped DStv may have gotten fed up with the lack of content on its existing channels.

Many have complained about the high number of repeats on many of its channels and the lack of new content.

DStv’s financial situation could be partly to blame for the decision-making behind its channel changes.

The broadcaster is under financial pressure, with MultiChoice’s half-year results for the 2023/24 financial year revealing that its profits had shrunk.

Across all its operations, MultiChoice saw its profit plummet 22% from R6.2 billion to R4.8 billion.

It said load-shedding, cost pressures on consumers, and a depreciation in the value of local currencies against the US dollar had contributed to DStv’s poor results.

Investors have also grown sceptical of MultiChoice’s performance and outlook.

The company’s share price closed at a record low of R63.21 on 17 November 2023, having nearly halved since the start of the year.

It has bounced back significantly since, closing at R113.00 on Thursday, 30 May 2024.

One of DStv’s key cards is its vast sports broadcasting rights and local content catalogue.

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However, its dominance over sports broadcasting could be under threat, with international streaming services increasingly seeking to secure sports broadcasting rights.

The table below summarises DStv’s channel changes from January 2022 to June 2024.


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