It’s not just us, Zimbabweans, who are concerned about the dominance of DStv. In countries across Africa entertainment lovers crave alternatives. Here in Zimbabwe we almost got a competitive alternative until the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) yanked that from us. In South Africa though, despite DStv being a South African offering, the broadcasting regulator ICASA is taking strides to ensure there is a competitive sector.
ICASA is looking to see if there are any competition problems in the pay-tv industry. They released a discussion document listing possible market interventions. They have invited contributions and will only set regulations imposing pro-competitive conditions if necessary. Of particular importance to ICASA is the acquisition and management of sports rights. Let us look at some of the proposed market interventions which will apply to licensees with significant power (read DStv.)
- Opening Multichoice’s network to other subscription television broadcasting services. Multichoice, which owns DStv, would be obligated to share their distribution infrastructure. This leads to smaller players being able to compete with this giant. Infrastructure sharing however is a complicated subject where coming up with a fair solution is harder said than done. (In Zimbabwe, the would-be competition for DStv is not even asking for infrastructure sharing. Kwese has invested in it’s own infrastructure. So BAZ does not have to navigate these treacherous waters.)
- Shortening exclusive contract periods. Multichoice has been in a leadership position for a long time and has brokered a lot of exclusive contracts along the way. For there to be true competition these exclusives have to be looked at and care must be taken so that they are not for too long a period. (In Zimbabwe as there was hype about Kwese coming to the country, we had some who were not interested because of content missing on Kwese but exclusive to DStv.)
- Unbundling of sports rights and making them available to more than one buyer. Making the content available on more than one platform being important too i.e subscription and mobile tv and on the internet too. Rights splitting is also proposed, where a rights owner has to split the content rights and sell them to different broadcasters. (In Zimbabwe, seeing as some won’t consider an option like Kwese because of lack of sports content exclusive to DStv, there is no true competition which BAZ should look at.)
- Various other proposals like decoder and dish interoperability where switching costs are lowered and so competition is increased and wholesale must-offer conditions are also in the discussion document.
I find it ridiculous that as the Zimbabwean broadcasting regulator blocks a ‘Zimbabwean’ broadcaster to protect a South African broadcaster, the South African regulator looks to clip that same South African broadcaster’s wings. What do you think about the proposals? Do you think they could lead to a shake up in the DStv dominated pay-tv sector?
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