No signal in sight
GTV’s collapse spells doom for Telkom Media
HARDLY A WEEK after the demise of GTV – the British-based pay-TV purveyor with interests in sub-Saharan Africa – MultiChoice has swiftly moved to reclaim the top tier English league soccer rights previously held by the now defunct GTV.
In fact, MultiChoice – owned by media heavyweight Naspers (parent company of Finweek) – is said to have tabled a bid to acquire the rest of GTV’s assets. “We’re looking at what we could potentially salvage from GTV. But I’m not aware of any plans to acquire GTV’s other remaining assets,” says Caroline Creasy, MultiChoice’s head of corporate communications for its Africa businesses.
If successful in its bid for GTV’s assets, the move could further strengthen MultiChoice’s dominance of the African pay-TV market, warned media analyst Arthur Goldstuck. “With Telkom we had first-hand experience of how monopolies tend to influence pricing of products and services. Any monopoly is bad for consumers.”
But while GTV’s demise may have taken the industry by surprise, Goldstuck says its collapse best signals the challenges prospective service providers – including Telkom Media, On Digital Media and Walking on Water – could face on launching their services.
“You need deep pockets to finance such a venture, considering the subscription TV market stretching from SA up to Nigeria has pretty much been sewn up by the incumbent MultiChoice,” says Khulekani Dhlamini, a telecoms analyst.
With parent company Telkom having withdrawn its initial R7,5bn commitment to Telkom Media – one of the new licensees initially thought to be a formidable threat to MultiChoice’s monopoly – Goldstuck has a dim view of Telkom Media’s prospects. Following the withdrawal of parent company Telkom last year, Telkom Media set a deadline of January 2009, by when it would have unveiled a new controlling shareholder as well as launch plans. However, that deadline has passed without a word from management.
Black economic empowerment group Mvelaphanda and a Chinese consortium both expressed initial interest in acquiring Telkom’s 66% interest in Telkom Media but have since reportedly dropped the idea.