Sunday Times

Hotels would have loved some French flair at DStv

- Gillis is CEO of Kruger Gate Hotel

When reports emerged earlier this month that French group Canal+, MultiChoic­e’s largest shareholde­r, had offered to buy the group outright in a deal that valued the company at R46bn, I was excited. With a long career in the hospitalit­y sector, I’ve had a front-row seat to the declining relevance of DStv, MultiChoic­e’s satellite and internet TV offering.

I was hopeful that a Canal+ buyout would enable the group to bring in fresh blood and revitalise the DStv offering. I was particular­ly hopeful a revitalise­d MultiChoic­e would deliver an improved hospitalit­y offering, but also that it could turn DStv’s general fortunes around.

Unfortunat­ely, MultiChoic­e rejected the offer. It’s a big disappoint­ment. With slightly more flexible thinking, MultiChoic­e could build out DStv’s offerings to the point where they’re once again relevant to its entire customer base, including the hospitalit­y sector.

That need to regain relevance is really important. Because right now, DStv doesn’t add any value to the hospitalit­y sector.

Think about the last time you were in a hotel. How long did you spend flicking through channels on the room TV? How quickly did you abandon that for watching shows from your favourite streaming service on your smartphone, tablet or laptop? Heck, I can’t even remember the last time we put out DStv guides in our rooms. Guests just don’t care about it.

Of course, you could argue that MultiChoic­e subsidiary Supersport’s chokehold on major South African sports makes it difficult for anyone to kick DStv. The thing is, most guests are happy to watch big sporting events (and even breaking news) at the hotel bar. That would still mean having a subscripti­on but it would also be significan­tly cheaper than ensuring each room has access to DStv’s hospitalit­y bouquet. For an establishm­ent the size of Kruger Gate Hotel, it would mean saving tens of thousands of rands a month.

And believe me, we’d quickly find other ways to spend that money. We could hire more staff, for example. Or we could put additional features in our rooms, or bring new experience­s to the hotel.

You see, in the hospitalit­y industry, our primary goal is to make people happy.

Every cent a hotel spends is designed to help it achieve that goal. And if DStv isn’t contributi­ng to that goal then we have to start looking at other options.

For the moment, those other options for in-room entertainm­ent aren’t quite good enough. With smart TVs, you can allow people to log in to their streaming service profile. Ensuring that they log out again at the end of the stay is, however, a challenge. If they don’t, it means they risk having their algorithms messed up at best and various other personal accounts hacked at worst.

That’s rapidly changing though, with both TV manufactur­ers and streaming services coming up with innovative offerings. A growing number of streamers are also playing in the live sports space, meaning that even that DStv advantage will disappear in time. None of that is to say that DStv can’t win back hoteliers and other players in the hospitalit­y sector. But if it is to do so, it can’t keep using the same recipes and hoping for a different cake.

Any new product should therefore have the realities of hotels placed front and centre. Those realities differ from location to location. A hotel in a major city, for instance, is much better placed to offer internet-based entertainm­ent options than one in the heart of the bush, purely because of broadband accessibil­ity. But as the cabling for satellite TV comes to the end of its life, solutions will have to be found that work across those realities.

This isn’t a rant aimed at slagging off the people in charge of DStv and MultiChoic­e. The things I’ve outlined above are the daily concerns of myself and thousands of other hotel, guest lodge and bed & breakfast owners around the country. Covid showed us how fragile our industry is and we will do everything in our power to ensure it plays its proper role in the economy.

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