Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Broadcaster eMedia Holdings — which owns the popular free-to-air brands eTV and eNCA and is controlled by Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) — has lost its highly rated CEO at a critical juncture in the development of its satellite television offering.

On Tuesday, Andre van der Veen, who was appointed CEO in November 2017, announced he would step down from the eMedia board at the end of November.

No reasons were given for his resignation.

Market speculation is that it was probably the right time for Van der Veen, who has significant other interests, to move on. Most notably, this includes a large investment in JSE-listed waste-to-energy company Montauk, which has significant exposure to the US market.

He will be replaced by Khalik Sheriff, the deputy CEO of eMedia.

Sheriff is a media sector veteran and ranks as eMedia’s most experienced television executive, having been with the group for more than 15 years.

Van der Veen’s appointment followed an extended period during which eMedia was headed by acting CEO Kevin Govender, the financial director of HCI.

The prolonged tenure of Govender followed the acrimonious departure of eTV prime mover and HCI co-founder Marcel Golding.

eMedia has struggled in the past few years as it incurred sizeable start-up and marketing costs for its free-to-air satellite channel Openview.

Van der Veen, who enjoyed enormous success in building up Niveus Investments’ alternative gaming businesses and also in restoring value at beleaguered liquor producer KWV, was largely viewed as the man capable of turning around eMedia by securing traction for Openview.

eMedia’s recent annual report showed Openview earned advertising revenue of R60m against content costs of R173m. Operating costs, including retail subsidies for set-top boxes, topped R255m, and meant the net operating loss for Openview topped R367m in the year to end March.

Writing in the annual report, Van der Veen disclosed that Openview set-top box activations grew at an average of 35,000 a month and that by the end of March almost 1.15-million set-top boxes were activated.

He pointed out that Openview held about 3.5% of the television audience in SA with the break-even level reckoned to be around 6%.