Monday, 16 July 2012

Why Multichoice's DSTV won't be offering a less-expensive, pay-per-view service anytime soon.

Written for South African satellite television subscribers.

My DIS'-SA-TV-A rant bemoaned the lack of a truly customized, pay-per-view service for South African television viewers. Now, here's a contrarian view as to why local satellite television subscribers who want to pay only for programming they are interested in (rather than subsidising the ridiculous lifestyles of the "Dim {Kardashians} and Dangerous {Snooki & Sitch}") should not 'hold their breath' for such a product offering from DSTV:

One of Umberto Ecco's most humorous articles 'Does the Audience have Bad Effects on Television?' (from Apocalypse Postponed) saw him confronting the belief amongst certain intellectuals that television is "bad for its audience" by showing that the inverse was true; television audiences had rejected many state-subsidised efforts aimed at promoting High Culture to them. This came to mind after a recent u-turn by Multichoice: I was pleasantly suprised and impressed that DSTV had ditched daily scheduling from their April subscriber magazine. However, it later became clear that I was in the minority. Multichoice did a subscriber poll in May and promised to return to the old format by August due to customers' negative feedback concerning this change.

This may reflect several truths about DSTV television subscribers:
  1. They resist change;
  2. They prefer to read their magazine to know exactly when shows will appear on their favourite channels (even though the reason DSTV initially gave for dropping scheduling from its magazine was their concern that it became outdated during the month);
  3. They do not want to use their electronic TV guide to get more accurate information on programming;
  4. They may find it easier to search the magazine for content they are interested in, rather than using the electronic TV guide (and, yes, IMHO its 'search for' function could definitely benefit from a Google-sque makeover);
  5. They like to know for a month-in-advance what's on television, rather than the week-in- advance that their electronic TV guide shows them;
  6. They may prefer to schedule their daily lives around television programming times rather than to set recordings and watch them later.
If these preferences apply to most of the one million viewers (a quarter of DSTV subscribers responded to the questionnaire), then this suggests to me that the bulk of their audience would not be desirous of changing to more customization, and the extra-efforts this would likely entail. The flipside of this is that DSTV can now readily cite potential audience disinterest as yet another reason for not offering a more customized pay-per-view service. That's in addition to the growth of its subscriber base and the absence of strong competition from satellite television providers in our local market:
  • At around 300 000 subscribers as of November, 2011, TopTV offers no existential threat worth evolving for;
  • If media visibility determines reality, MyTV would not to exist (the only reason I know about it is thanks to Wikipedia);
  • And Free2view "South Africa's only free to air satelite TV platform" is dead, according to Teevee with Thinus, quite contrary to what its Wikipedia entry's PR rep seems to have wrote!
While DSTV's new BoxOffice and OnDemand may point in the direction of more user choice, there seems no sound business reason why Multichoice would ever combine these into a fully customized, pay-per-view satellite television service. So, if you want to spend less on your monthly television bill; your local video store, PushPlay, online video services, an iTunes US Account with AppleTV, GoogleTV, et al. is your best bet for the foreseeable future.

If you agree, or not, let us know in the comment box below. Ta.

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