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S.African pay TV Multichoice banks on World Cup to grow subscribers

South African pay TV company Multichoice Group banks on the upcoming soccer World Cup that starts later in November to register a sharp jump in subscriber base, a senior official said, after the company posted a loss in the first half.

Africa’s biggest subscription television company said it has benefited from people working from home during the pandemic through its services such as direct-to-home (via satellite) and digital terrestrial television (via ground antennae) channels, video-on-demand and streaming service Showmax.

But lately, it has struggled to increase subscriber base amid inflationary pressures, especially in South Africa, forcing the company to turn to rest of Africa, where it services 49 countries.

The hunt has paid off with the company seeing its losses shrink by 40% in rest of Africa in the first half that ended Sept. 30, and the group projecting profits by the end of the fiscal year in March.

“We normally expect quite a big jump in subscriber numbers (in rest of Africa) for a FIFA World Cup,” Tim Jacobs, CFO of Multichoice told Reuters, adding the tournament had been historically seen to propel subscriber numbers by over a million.

While streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney are eating into its once monopoly market, Multichoice is betting on local sporting rights beyond just the soccer World Cup and local original content to retain and grow subscribers, Jacobs said.

The pay TV company, which was earlier a part of South Africa’s biggest technology investor Naspers, posted a headline loss per share of 58 South African cents in the first half ending Sept. 30. due to an upfront investment in services and offerings it made before the soccer tournament.

Its shares at end of day’s closing were up 2.45%.

Multichoice’s revenues for the half year increased by 7% to 28.6 billion rand ($1.64 billion) and subscribers grew by 5% to 22.1 million. Reuters

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