|Founded||8 November 1993|
|Headquarters||Ferndale, Gauteng, Randburg, South Africa|
|Products||Direct Broadcast Satellite|
|Revenue||R50.1 bn (2019)|
|R7 bn (2019)|
MultiChoice is a South African company that operates the DStv Satellite Television service, a major satellite TV service in Sub-Saharan Africa. MultiChoice was formed out of the subscriber-management branch of the M-Net terrestrial television Pay TV company, and broadcasts the full range of M-Net channels on the DStv service.
MultiChoice is owned by the MultiChoice Group media conglomerate. One of the subsidiaries of MultiChoice is DStv Mobile, a service that delivers television transmission to mobile devices such as laptops, smart phones and notebooks. In 2018 Multichoice had a total subscriber base of 13.5 million viewers and Naspers claimed that MultiChoice was one of the fastest growing pay-TV operators globally.
In 1986 the media company Naspers formed a partnership with other South African Media companies and launched a Pay-TV channel called M-NET. In 1993, M-Net was divided into two divisions, one focused on transmission of the entertainment channels and the other on cellphone operations, signal distribution and subscriber management. This second division became Multichoice. The company had ben granted a licence to broadcast into Namibia in 1991 and, as a result, in 1996 Multichoice Africa was established.
In 1992, analogue services were launched in 20 African countries and lasted until 1996 when digital services replaced them. This division, called DStv (Digital Satellite Television), had first been launched in South Africa in 1995, making it the first direct-to-home digital pay-TV service outside the US.
In 2002, a "Dual-view" decoder was launched by DStv which allowed the simultaneous viewing of two different channels from a single satellite feed. In 2006 a service to mobile devices was trialled and officially launched in 2011. This service is now called DStv NOW.
Multichoice broadcasts in 50 countries in sub-saharan Africa, including Cape Verde and Madagascar. Local language programme content is available in French and Portuguese in certain African territories, as well as the 11 official languages within South Africa.
M-NET is a satellite television subscription service which was established in 1985.
Showmax is an online video-on-demand subscription service which was established in 2015.
Supersport is a collection of sports channels broadcast on the DStv network. It was established as part of M-NET in 1988 and became an individual channel in 1995. It is affiliated with ESPN, Sky Sports and Fox Sports (Australia). It also owns a football club called SuperSport United F.C.
GOtv is a Digital terrestrial television platform that broadcasts in 11 African countries.
Irdeto is a digital platform security company that partnered with Multichoice to combat pay-TV piracy.
Current projects and partnerships
Multichoice launched a streaming service called Showmax in 2015, which was subsequently enhanced for OTT services. On 19 September 2018, they announced that they would be launching a streaming version of DStv in 2019.
On 29 May 2018, MultiChoice South Africa and the University of Pretoria jointly announced that Multichoice would sponsor a Research Chair in Machine Learning at the University of Pretoria. The intention is to foster the development of skills in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology in South Africa. The sponsorship included bursaries for students in their final year and Honours projects through to Masters and PhD degrees in the fields of Engineering, Data Science or Computer Science.
Listing on JSE
In September 2018, Multichoice's parent company Naspers announced that it would separate its video entertainment business from the bulk of Naspers and list it separately on the JSE Limited|Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). The new company would be called MultiChoice Group and would include MultiChoice South Africa, MultiChoice Africa, Showmax Africa, and Irdeto. The listing took place on 27 February 2019, with share code MCG. The share was immediately eligible for inclusion in the JSE Top40, the list of the largest 40 shares by market capitalisation.
Ownership after JSE listing
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is the regulatory body for both telecommunications and broadcasting sectors. In February 2019, ICASA was dealing with a complaint, brought by non-profit organisation Khulisa Social Solutions (KSS), that the act of listing the MultiChoice Group is a breach of its broadcasting licence.
KSS claimed that the listing of MultiChoice Group on the JSE constituted a transfer of its individual broadcasting service licence from Naspers to the management and board of Multichoice, which required written permission from ICASA under the Electronic Communications Act. MultiChoice Group's answering affidavit stated that Multichoice had always been the licence holder, not Naspers and after the listing that situation would continue. The complaint had not been resolved prior to the listing of MultiChoice Group on the JSE.
Dominance of pay-TV market
ICASA released a preliminary report on 15 April 2019 regarding the dominance of Multichoice within the pay-TV market. The report suggested that a potential remedy would be the spitting up of rights to long-term contracts that are currently exclusive. This would make such content readily available for new entrants into the market. Multichoice is opposed to this in principle as it would threaten the viability of their income model.
Regulation of Netflix
Having lost 100,000 premium subscribers in the 2017/18 financial year, Multichoice called on ICSA to regulate Netflix and other OTT providers in the South African Pay-TV sector. Multichoice claims that Netflix has an unfair advantage over Multichoice as they do not pay tax in South Africa, do not employ anyone in South Africa and are not subject to the Black Economic Empowerment legislation of South Africa. Netflix responded that they intend to abide by local laws and taxes and were happy to collaborate with regulators. ICASA believes that they need to regulate Netflix and any Pay-TV monopolies.