South Africa is on the brink of a broadcasting explosion, with
recent ­developments showing that the sector is not prepared to
wait for the government's shambolic digital terrestrial television
(DTT) migration.

While the DTT process remains stalled by the conditional access
debate and the appointment of new Communications Minister Yunus
Carrim, e.tv parent company Sabido Investments and the public
broadcaster have both made moves to launch new television services
on satellite platforms instead.

Kagiso Media, which is also aiming to launch a satellite
television service, has raised concerns that the delays in the
­migration process have allowed MultiChoice a chance to further
entrench their position of power in the ­broadcasting sector.

It is, however, also seemingly leading to a surge in
­competition in the satellite television market (see below).

"What we are seeing is an ­explosion of content offerings, which
is part of the move to digital television platforms," said one
industry insider.

Sabido is launching a new free-to-air satellite platform called
Openview HD via subsidiary Platco Digital.

It will be partnering with ­licensed broadcasters to carry
channels on their behalf and Sabido has confirmed that e.tv will
launch a number of
channels on the platform.

Platco's Maxwell Nonge is promising "significantly ­cheaper"
carriage rates ­compared with existing players in the sector -
which basically comprise DStv and TopTV.

Platco has also confirmed that it is in discussions with the
public broadcaster about carrying some of their channels.

The free services will cost consumers only the R1 900 for the
decoder, satellite dish and installation. They will get access to
between 12 and 20 channels for no additional monthly costs.

"Openview HD will not be ­engaging in any ­licensable activities
on its own behalf as it merely provides technical platform services
to
licensed free-to-air broadcasters on the basis of existing
licences," said Nonge.

Nonge says details of the specific channels will be released
closer to launch time in October this year.

The plan has generated a lot of curiosity among industry players
City Press spoke to on condition of anonymity this week.

Some argued that the move by Sabido could be interpreted as a
vote of no confidence in the migration's process, although ­Sabido
Investments head of corporate affairs Vasili Vass said the company
was fully committed to the migration.

"Openview HD should be seen as another platform to strengthen
free-to-air broadcasters," said Vass.

Vass pointed out that the United Kingdom, Ghana, New Zealand and
Germany all had free-to-air satellite platforms operating alongside
DTT platforms.

Meanwhile, the dominant satellite platform, DStv, is also
attracting new local channels in lieu of the migration.

The SABC launched its ­24-hour news channel this week on
­MultiChoice's DStv bouquet - a move heavily criticised by the DA,
SABC union bosses and the Save Our SABC ­coalition.

The coalition's co-ordinator, Carol Mohlala, is reported to have
said: "What message are they giving about DTT? Are they trying to
tell us DTT won't work? Why couldn't they wait?"

Mohlala said that when migration was up and running, the public
broadcaster would have 15 extra channels and it was not clear what
they were going to do to fill them with.

Broadcast, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers' Union
president Hannes du Buisson said the move was "morally wrong"
because the public broadcaster was using public money to broadcast
a service to an elite audience.

The Mail & Guardian reported that MultiChoice Africa would
pay the public broadcaster a fee of R553 million over five
years.

The public broadcaster's new 24-hour news channel promises to
feature news in all 11 official South African languages, syndicated
news programmes and repurposed SABC news programmes from its
existing three channels, including ­Morning Live.

The channel will also become available on the migration, when
the long-delayed switchover to ­digital broadcasting in South
­Africa begins.

One industry insider argued that getting the SABC channels on
the DStv bouquet was good "political capital" for MultiChoice.

The controversial Gupta family is reportedly also set to launch
a 24-hour news channel on the pay channel.

The channel is being launched under the umbrella of Infinity
Media, a partnership between the main Gupta family vehicle, Oakbay
Investments, with a 35% stake, Indian satellite giant ­Zee-TV (35%)
and an unknown black-empowerment partner with 30%.

The channel known as Africa News Network 7 has started hiring
staff, including presenters, anchors, reporters and producers.

The channel has said it will launch late this year.

The new hopefuls
There were five new applicants to Icasa for a new round of
satellite television broadcasting licences recently.

Kagiso Media
Kagiso Media, which owns East Coast Radio, Jacaranda Radio, Urban
Brew Studios and educational publishers Juta, plans to launch
Kagiso TV if granted a licence.

Kagiso TV will be a satellite television bouquet that will
retail at about R240 per month - with lower-priced options.

The target audience is LSM 5-7 - a potential audience of
3.5 million to 6.5 million households.

Kagiso have set themselves a target of 1 million subscribers by
the sixth year of operation - the point at which it will break
even.

Siyaya
Set up by the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela tribe in North West, Siyaya
wants to offer a satellite bouquet for R70 per month.

Soccer will be one of Siyaya's main draw cards, with plans to
show club football from South Africa and the continent.

Other content partners include Showtime, National Geographic,
Zula, Warner Brothers, Fox and Sony Entertainment.

Their target market is consumers above 30 years old who earn
between R4 000 and R10 000 a month - a market that Siyaya estimates
has about 1 million potential viewers.

Siyaya plans to break even in their fourth year of operations,
but will need 300 000 viewers by then to do so.

Former SABC manager Thandi Ramathesele is the CEO of Siyaya,
former Post Office chairperson Vuyo Mahlati is the chair of the
board and Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela's Kgosi Nyalala Pilane is deputy
chair.

Close-T Broadcast Network Holdings
Cape Town-based Close-T plan to launch a satellite television
bouquet for South Africa's gay, lesbian and transgender
community.

Besides specific content for this community, they will also
offer travel and fashion television shows, and ­­art house and
foreign-language films.

Its content partners thus far are Out TV Group, Logo TV and the
Out in Africa Film Festival.

Close-T estimates that it has a potential market of 6 million
South Africans.

Mindset Media Enterprises
Mindset Media Enterprises is the commercial arm of the Mindset
Network, which specialises in education and health content.

They currently produce television shows for MultiChoice's DStv
platform, On Digital Media's Top TV platform and Sentech's Vivid
platform.

Mindset wants to launch channels full of similar content.

Classic FM founder Hylton Appelbaum is a director of Mindset
Media Enterprises.

Mobile TV
Mobile TV is owned by publisher and journalist Mothobi Mutloatse
and black business support body Nafcoc.

Talking about the technology that will drive his broadcasting
business, Mutloatse said: "It will be interactive, touch screen,
and have downloads and internet."