Astra backs Sth African HDTV pay-TV

A few weeks ago On Digital Media received its official licence to broadcast pay-TV services over South Africa. SES owns a 20% stake in the operation. ODM’s plans for this 1 billion Rand project, a direct competitor to Multichoice’s DStv, are now emerging.

ODM says it will launch transmissions “in June-July 2009”. Vino Govender, Director of On Digital Media says from the start its decoders will be HDTV-compliant. “We will broadcast in SD format when we launch and introduce HD programming/channels at a later stage. The reason for this choice is that a large number of consumers in our target market do not own HD enabled/compliant television sets.”

“For the first time in South Africa, pay-TV subscribers will not be subjected to the usual one size fits all type of pay-tv bouquet’s available in the market. ODM’s subscribers will have the ability to create their own bouquets based on their personal viewing preferences. In this way, there will be no channel wastage and subscribers will only pay for what they want to watch,” says ODM.

ODM is predicting that by year five of its operation (2013) it will be “conservatively” reaching 300,000 subscribers, but is targeting higher numbers (500,000), and 1m within 10 years. Its numbers will address the growing market in South Africa for pay-TV, which – says ODM – totals 3.3m at service launch, the majority of which are not subscribing to Multichoice’s DStv service.

SES Astra holds a 20% stake in the venture (“the maximum equity allowed for foreign entities”), which will almost certainly guarantee traffic for one of Astra’s satellites over the region (and earmarked for Sirius 4). The other consortium members include Lereko Investment Holdings, First National Media Investment Holdings, NewCo (a consortium of Kopano Ke Matla Inv. Co, Cosatu and the Industrial Development Corp).