Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

The hearings into the subscription television broadcasting sector by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) are "irrelevant", says MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela. This is because streaming services like Netflix have superseded traditional broadcasters.

The week-long hearings will come to a head on Friday when MultiChoice makes its oral submissions. It will argue that though it contributes R14bn to the economy and employs 8,000 people, so-called over-the-top players should be regulated and subject to value-added tax and black economic empowerment requirements.

"Our view is simply that this discussion document is irrelevant in the way they structured it," Mawela told Business Day.

"It would have been relevant if they put it up 15 years ago."

The proliferation of over-the-top players like Netflix and Amazon "are denting our business. We have lost over 100,000 subscribers in SA and the rest of Africa," he said.

Such providers are "global giants with big pockets" which are "unregulated and don’t have to do BEE and all the other requirements we do", he added.

"If you keep on trying to regulate us more and more, they are going to destroy the TV industry overall."

In a 604-page written submission, MultiChoice argued that other pay-television operators had been licensed but had failed to launch for reasons including bad business decisions and a lack of resources.

Cellular operator Cell C, which has its own streaming service called Black, said MultiChoice was exaggerating the threat of Netflix and other over-the-top services, which it said would not threaten MultiChoice in the near term.

Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka said the hearings were about gathering evidence about the state of the industry, including competitive advantages and "trying to address the competition issue". Icasa needed to understand why the previously licensed operators had failed.

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