African pay TV woos SABC audience

Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 03-05-2012

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is facing increased pressure from pay-TV operators over audience encroachment with the advent of greater competition, according to the public network's chief executive.

"The advent of digital satellite broadcasting has seen pay-TV operators increasingly penetrating the audience segments that have been the preserve of the SABC," Lulama Mokhobo told Parliament's Communications Committee on 2 May.

She warned that cheaper subscription rates to premium channels and changing conditions would have a "serious and negative impact" on SABC's revenue in the long term, during the briefing on the public broadcaster's strategic plan for 2013-15.

Improving content is seen as vital in the bid to increase audience share. SABC plans to invest over R1 billion in commissioning and acquiring local and international content during 2013-2014, she said.

A limited compound annual growth rate of 7.9% is predicted for SABC's advertising revenue stream between 2010-2015, equating to a rise of R 4 billion to a total of R12.6 billion. If this forecast is accurate, Mokhobo said the broadcaster will require more funding from the public purse. She cited current restrictions limiting advertising time to nine minutes per hour as compounding the problem.

SABC expects license fee generation to only provide a compound annual growth rate of 1% in the five years from 2010, remaining at R1 billion. Mokhobo called for "legislative protection" against the refusal by many to pay license fees, and requested that pay-TV operators assisted in their collection.

Mokhobo said despite these revenue pressures and the heavy cost of digital terrestrial TV roll-out, SABC was determined not to draw down the remaining R400 million available from the R1.4 billion loan guarantee by the government.