On the Cover
TopTV wants to double up
Wednesday, 24 October 2012 00:00
Written by Bonnie Tubbs
Eddie Mbalo, TopTV
Pay-Television provider TopTV wants to double its active user-base within the next two years and is looking at selling a stake in the company to fund its ambitious growth plans.
The provider – owned by On Digital Media – has sold about 450 000 decoders since it launched as a rival to incumbent MultiChoice in May 2010. However, more than half of the consumers who bought boxes have since ditched the service.
MultiChoice, which had a 15-year monopoly, currently boasts a subscriber base of four million households out of an estimated 11 million houses with televisions. In the year to March, it added 492 000 subscribers.
TopTV, which is in a turnaround phase, aims to increase its active subscriber base to between 300 000 to 400 000 within the next 18 months to two years, says acting CEO Eddie Mbalo. Since launch, TopTV has sold 450 000 decoders, yet only about 160 000 to 200 000 are active and steady-paying monthly customers.
SA’s second pay-television company is also looking at selling equity in a bid to raise capital. Mbalo says it is in discussions with various companies regarding selling an equity stake. He says capital is needed to “fund future growth plans”.
This comes as the company is in a turnaround phase, says Mbalo. He says there are various areas of the business that require immediate attention and that the phase is progressing well.
“If the company can bring an equity partner on board, it will give [TopTV] a much-needed cash injection to boost future growth plans.”
The company’s strategy now, says Mbalo, is to reach the mass market through its prepaid payment option. “[This] could become a payment platform for a wide range of services that TopTV is planning on launching.”
In August, TopTV launched a prepaid voucher option enabling anyone with a TopTV decoder to “recharge” their satellite TV bouquet.
At the time, Mbalo said he expected the new product would have a “significant and positive impact” on the operator’s subscriber growth – and the overall business. Mbalo said the prepaid strategy was starting to “impact positively on business” but he was not in a position to reveal sales figures.
Mbalo says more retail outlets are expected to come on stream to offer prepaid vouchers, in addition to the current channel: Pep Stores and Blue Label distribution outlets. “Increased marketing visibility in the months leading up to December is also expected to boost prepaid sales.”
While Pep is still retailing vouchers, the clothing chain has stopped selling decoders in its more than 1 000 stores.
TopTV is also reviewing its content strategy and is in discussions with local content producers, says Mbalo. He says announcements regarding the bolstering of TopTV’s content will be made shortly.
The pay-TV provider has weathered a fair share of controversy over the past two-odd years, with one debacle being over its bid to introduce adult content late last year.
While the Independent Communications Authority of SA eventually stonewalled the launch of Playboy TV the incident left the company in the lurch as it had already signed a contract with the content provider.
In February, TopTV CEO Vino Govender suddenly resigned. At the time, ODM said it was a case of “mutual separation” that both parties believed would benefit the company in its future developments.
Mbalo issued a statement soon after Govender’s resignation, referring to a “new beginning for TopTV” that saw him personally pledge to turn the pay-TV provider’s fate around.
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