How Localisation Influences the Pricing for Satellite TV Services in Africa

The satellite television (TV) market in Africa continues to grow significantly, with DStv, Startimes, BeIN, and Canal+ serving as the primary drivers of this industry segment. The market is also experiencing noticeable expansion due to various factors, including the increasing availability of satellite TV services in emerging markets, the introduction of innovative subscription packages, and the growing desire for high-quality entertainment content.

In recent years, the African continent has witnessed a remarkable surge in technological advancements and connectivity, with satellite television services emerging as a significant player in the media and entertainment landscape. As with any rapidly evolving industry, the pricing strategies adopted by satellite TV service providers have become a focal point of interest and scrutiny. 

However, what sets Africa apart is its diverse range of local contexts, each influenced by unique economic, cultural, and social factors. The pricing for satellite TV services in Africa cannot be understood in isolation; it is intrinsically tied to the intricate web of local influences that shape consumer preferences, purchasing power, and market dynamics. The multifaceted interplay between these contextual factors and the pricing strategies of satellite TV services ultimately determines how these services are priced and perceived across different regions of the continent. 

For example, Multichoice, which operates DStv, Gotv, and Showmax (pay TV), proactively tailors its services to local markets. It is expanding its local payment options and implementing localised billing systems across various markets. These strategies aim to bolster its market presence and gain a competitive edge in Africa’s expanding pay-TV industry. Notably, Multichoice derives a substantial portion (80%) of its revenue from DStv subscriptions in both South Africa and the broader African region, while the remainder comes from Gotv and Showmax subscriptions.

However, Multichoice, specifically through its Nigerian arm, Multichoice Nigeria, encountered a significant wave of public backlash when it revealed plans to raise subscription fees for Nigerian subscribers in April 2023, with the increase taking effect in May of the same year. Multichoice Nigeria attributed this decision to economic challenges and the rising cost of doing business. This situation isn’t exclusive to Nigeria; a similar tariff hike was observed in Malawi.

In the Malawian scenario, the proposed tariff increase faced strong opposition. Backed by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), the public vehemently opposed MultiChoice Malawi’s attempts to adjust DStv tariffs. MultiChoice Malawi, a subsidiary of Multichoice operating in Malawi, maintained that these pricing decisions were made by MultiChoice Africa Holdings (MAH), and thus, it had limited authority to intervene.

This tension led to a High Court injunction in Lilongwe, stemming from the dispute between MultiChoice Malawi and MACRA over potential DStv tariff adjustments. This legal development has highlighted the imperative of establishing fair and accessible pricing for the local populace. Despite MultiChoice Malawi’s assertion that it doesn’t directly provide DStv services to the public and therefore lacks the power to determine or alter tariff structures, the injunction’s repercussions are wide-ranging. They present substantial challenges to the management and leadership of MultiChoice Malawi, potentially culminating in legal consequences.

Therefore, as a response to the evolving market landscape and the valid concerns raised by the local community, MAH has decided to suspend the DStv service in Malawi indefinitely. Thus MAH has encouraged its Malawian customers to discontinue payments for the DStv service, effective immediately, noting that customers who have recently subscribed and made payments will continue to enjoy their services until their current 30-day viewing cycle concludes on or before 10 September 2023. Regrettably, starting August 9, 2023, MAH will no longer accept new subscriptions or reconnections.

MAH’s decision results from various factors, including regulatory issues, prevailing economic circumstances and the growing concerns raised by the local population regarding the affordability of DStv’s satellite TV offerings, which mirror sentiments shared by viewers in Nigeria and other regions.

Against the backdrop of this regulatory landscape and in light of the mounting competition posed by alternative Pay TV services such as Netflix and Prime Video, satellite tv providers need a more balanced and responsive approach to pricing. The changing dynamics of the industry are evident, as Pay TV services offer more cost-effective options and provide enhanced convenience through accessibility across multiple devices, eliminating the requirement for dedicated set-top boxes.

However, satellite TV companies recognise their challenges and are implementing measures to stay competitive. Many are introducing streaming platforms (for instance, DStv’s Showmax) that enable users to enjoy content on different devices. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether these endeavours will effectively counteract the trend of viewers cancelling traditional cable subscriptions. The rivalry between Pay TV and satellite TV is still ongoing, and although the outcome is uncertain, it is clear that streaming services are playing a pivotal role in reshaping the television landscape. Should satellite TV providers fail to adopt a robust and competitive strategy in response, it could have a more pronounced impact on satellite TV businesses in Africa.


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