Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

MultiChoice, which launched pay-TV service DStv in 1995, plans to let customers ditch their satellite dishes and access its content solely via the internet.

Like its international peers, the group, which will be separated from parent company Naspers in the first half of 2019, is grappling with competition from online subscription platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

In markets where the internet is already ubiquitous, satellite television operators have started offering online-only services, with London-based Sky among the first to do so.

Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of MultiChoice’s recently created connected video unit, said the company was "working on it", but could not give exact dates for the start of "dishless" services.

"There are a couple of things that we need to do beforehand," Ekdahl said

"I think the DStv Now service is phenomenal from a content perspective but it’s still not fantastic from a user experience point of view, and I don’t want to put something out there which is not great," Ekdahl said. DStv Now, MultiChoice’s answer to Netflix, is available to the group’s satellite television subscribers.

World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck said it was inevitable that Multichoice would introduce a streaming option.

"The writing has been on the wall for a while that the days of decoders are numbered.

"In environments where fixed-line broadband is available and affordable, streaming quickly becomes the default option for viewers," he said.

The introduction of ultrafast 5G connectivity over the next decade will accelerate the shift.

Goldstuck said for the time being, MultiChoice’s "saving grace" in the face of new competition has been live sports, since streaming platforms did not offer these services. However, this was not a sustainable competitive advantage.

"Now that Amazon is beginning to bid for sports rights for its Prime streaming service, the floodgates will open.

"In the next five years, when the rights to the English Premier League come up for renewal, Multichoice will face serious rivalry from multiple video-on-demand services.

"It has to begin preparing now for a new world of streaming entertainment in 2023."

MultiChoice Group CEO Calvo Mawela said the pay-TV market is expected to "hold its own" as consumers tend to hold multiple subscriptions.

To give it an edge over foreign rivals, the group will invest in local content, he said.

Yolisa Phahle, CEO of general entertainment at Multichoice, said the company would co-produce a new series, based on a novel by Afrikaans crime writer Deon Meyer, with a major international producer.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za