Astra-backed ODM could start this year

Chris Forrester

Reports from South Africa suggest that On Digital Media, a potential rival to Multichoice/DStv in the region, could start transmissions this year. SES Astra has an investment position in ODM which was licensed by South Africa’s ICASA media regulator in September 2007.

To date ICASA’s attempts to create viable competition to Multichoice’s monopoly pay-TV operation have fallen on stony ground. ‘E-Sat’ was one such prospect, but threw in the towel and announced it would be joining Multichoice’s DStv package in December 2007.

Telkom Media was another fully licensed player but its plan fell by the wayside when its parent company decided to abort its pay-TV plans. However, this venture is still alive given that Telkom’s 75% stake in the pay-TV operation was acquired by Shenzhen Media South Africa in May 2009. The company is a spin-off of China’s Shenzhen Media, which specialises in radio.

On Digital Media (ODM), which initially planned to launch commercial services in the second half of 2008, has also frequently pushed back its launch date. The plan now is to launch later this year. ODM’s CTO Frans Lindeque however warned that this date may also fall by the wayside, saying that the company has not received a license from ICASA for its uplink yet. This in turn is delaying decisions about which technology to deploy. SES Astra has a 20% interest in ODM.

More information may emerge as to ODM’s plans later this week when SES unveils its half-year results on July 31.