Competing for our attention
SOUTH African pay TV giant Multichoice was under the cosh this week at the Icasa hearings into competition in the subscription TV market. Multichoice stands accused of having a monopoly in the local market. Competitors claim its dominance is such that it is impossible to get a foothold.
Customers have moaned at what they perceive is a monolithic service to which they are held ransom if they want fare that is more appetising than that dished up by the free-to-air operators, SABC and etv.
Multichoice’s argument this week has been that there is competition – and it isn’t being delivered on normal TV channels.
In a certain way, it is right – studies show that by 2020, half of the country won’t be watching TV on a traditional TV, but getting their content via smartphones, tablets or computers, because of the dominance of the big telecommunications companies providing very similar content to their networks. There are other big players too, like Netflix, streaming via the internet.
South Africans are spoilt for choice and, like the print media companies which have been decimated by digital news sites, traditional broadcasters are also battling this disruption where content is consumed for free because of its accessibility. Piracy is another crisis – South Africa is the worst in the continent and the 20th worst in the world. There are scores of internet sites showcasing pirated soccer games live at the same time as Multichoice’s Supersport channel.
There needs to be competition, but also regulation. We need to create an environment where the consumer benefits from not just cheap foreign content but also locally created content and we need all these to invest in South Africa. The playing fields have to be level.