For the longest time, DStv has been the dominant player in the satellite tv space in Sub-Saharan Africa. You cannot count 3 houses without a dish in any direction owing to how ubiquitous they are. And that has been the case for decades now. However, technology is now a lot different from where it was 10 years ago. And like it or not, DStv’s current model might be on its last legs…unless they use the biggest asset they have to their advantage. Satellites.
The number of streaming services that have popped up in the last 10 years has been plenty and they offer video-on-demand (VOD) services. You watch what you want when you want. Something DStv tried to challenge with Box Office. But that’s not the sketchy part with DStv. Where the real danger is for them is that as of late the content creators themselves are now creating exclusive streaming platforms for the content they make.
HBO Max, Paramount+, AppleTV+ and Disney+ are just a few production houses that have gone the route of selling their good stuff themselves and not licensing this good content to 3rd party platforms like DStv. Remember Justice League Snyder’s Cut was exclusively released on HBO Max and they even snubbed the cinema.
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All this means is DStv is going to soon run out of good content which just means more repeats of average to poor content. This will not help them in any case. But what is working in their favor in terms of slowing down the exodus to these platforms is the payments space and more crucially the connectivity situation in Africa.
Connectivity in Africa
The connectivity landscape in Africa is at the moment quite poor. Whilst there are close to a billion people in Africa, the majority of it is rural and connectivity is limited both in reach and accessibility.
An estimated 19% of Africans are living in areas with completely no mobile connectivity and in these areas fixed internet services are also non-existent. That’s on the reach of connectivity. When it comes to access the situation is even more abysmal. 53% of the African population lives in areas where mobile connectivity is available but are not using mobile internet.
Over half a billion people who are living in areas with a mobile broadband network are not using mobile internet, despite substantial increases in mobile broadband coverage since 2014.The State of Mobile Internet Connectivity 2021 Sub Saharan Africa – GSMA
Fixed internet connectivity is much worse. Only 6.67 million Africans are subscribers to fixed internet services which is less than 1% of the continent’s population. And a majority of these subscribers most likely are part of the number of people using mobile internet services.
Now also consider the reality that in some of these countries, mobile internet subscribers are mainly using the internet as a more affordable way of communicating meaning in a country like Zimbabwe, the predominant use case of the internet is WhatsApp and Facebook which have cheaper content bundles that restrict the internet to just these social media platforms.
So all these new and legacy content streaming platforms already have a very small market to work with.
Payments can be hectic in Africa
There are a handful of nations in Africa that have stable enough economies to sustain a sound payment system. Some, not so much. In Zimbabwe, which is one of the more extreme cases, you need a prepaid Visa or Mastercard or an FCA (Foreign Currency Account) to be able to make online payments.
Beyond that, there is the headache of going to a bank to fund the account with the forex, the sanctions situation where some of the preferred wallets like Paypal will not work the way they are supposed to. These are some of the headaches that keep some of these streaming services like HBO Max and Disney+ from entering the Zimbabwean market. Yes if you are in countries like South Africa you are some of the lucky ones. It’s tough out here for some of us.
Income restricts choice
The GDP per capita in Africa is US$1645. That’s 23x less than Europe. So even if these streaming services are available, for those privileged enough to be able to afford choice, not many of them will sign up for every streaming service. Some thought is put into one or a select few that will offer them the most value for their money. And spoiler alert. DStv is becoming the less popular choice. #RepeatsAndReruns
Another raging debate brought about in the household when looking at entertainment is the internet vs DStv. Because a decent internet package costs as much as a decent DStv package, the debate is, do we spend money on DStv and forego the internet or do we stream content online on-demand and forget about DStv?
DStv’s biggest relevance is its satellite service and subscription platform. There are what I see as their biggest asset because they handle the subscription headache for all these streaming services and the connectivity issue we face on the continent.
What DStv should focus on is being the distribution platform for all the streaming services in Africa. And here is why.
Connectivity cannot catch up to demand fast enough in Africa. So what DStv solves there is the connectivity aspect. All the content streaming platforms will be made available on the DStv decoder and can be accessed without the need for an internet connection. The same satellite dish being used for regular DStv content right now is the one providing an internet connection for streaming services.
And DStv has the numbers already. In their 2022 report, they announced they have 21.8 million active subscribers on the continent. More than 3x the number of fixed internet subscribers in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.
This will not only solve the connectivity issue for those that want to enjoy streaming services but it also brings a fresh new use case for DStv where you can still enjoy these video-on-demand streaming services and still pay for a more affordable internet package knowing that entertainment will not balloon the internet bill.
The setup is subscriptions for VOD services are paid for the same way you pay for your regular DStv bouquets. Something that regular DStv subscribers are already used to. It is a win-win scenario because the streaming services will all just talk to DStv when collecting payments and it also saves them a bit from the password sharing they are struggling with. At least for Africa.
So a Netflix or Disney+ subscriber also becomes a DStv subscriber just from their more preferred entertainment platforms being made available on an already existing service they are familiar with.
It’s definitely not easy
From the tech side of things, it’s a bit of a headache. There may be some hardware components that need to be upgraded for this to work. Namely the decoders and possibly the LNBs on the dish as well. And on the DStv side, it can get complicated on the content delivery system, managing multiple services and multiple accounts per subscriber and also figuring out the revenue models for such a setup.
But why I think DStv and Multichoice should pivot in this direction is that they have, for the longest time been providing content and monetizing it through primarily subscriptions and advertising. The internet has stolen their thunder a bit with VOD services proposing content when you want it with no ads.
Now the entertainment industry, again thanks to the internet, is enabling content creation companies to start controlling the distribution of their content on their own native platforms. Meaning more and more good quality movies, series and documentaries are going to show up less on content aggregation platforms like DStv and more on their native platforms like Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Paramount+, HBO Max and so forth.
DStv might need to reassess its future before it loses its subscribers to either better connectivity in Africa, an exodus of great quality content to 1st party VOD platforms, or both.
These are just my thoughts. The comments are open. Let’s discuss.