Pay DTT gains in Sub-Saharan Africa as satellite stutters

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
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2015 was yet another momentous year for television in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most countries missed the ITU’s analog switch-off deadline of June, but DTT, especially pay DTT, made huge gains. And there is much more to come, partly as Canal Plus unveils its TNT Afrique DTT platform in Francophone countries.

However, the number of pay satellite TV subscribers climbed by a relatively low 7.4% in 2015, according to a new report from Digital TV Research. This was partly due to greater platform choice created by DTT and partly due to economic woes in some countries.

Available in more than 50 countries, DStv had 2.24 million subscribers outside South Africa by September 2015; down from 2.56 million six months earlier and down from 2.36 million a year earlier. Digital TV Research estimates that this total fell to 2.16 million by end-2015, with 2016 also expected to be tough.

Sub-Saharan Africa Split of TV households by platform - DTT, Satellite, IPTV, cable TV - Pay, FTA
Source: Digital TV Research

Simon Murray, author of the fifth edition of the Digital TV Sub-Saharan Africa Forecasts report, said: “DStv’s problems stem mostly from its rights to exclusive premium content, especially sports. Currency devaluation in most Sub-Saharan countries hit DStv hard. Exclusive content rights for premium content such as English Premier League soccer are usually paid for in US dollars. DStv has been compelled to increase its local currency subscription fees to cover the shortfall due to devaluation. As a result, DStv appears more expensive to locals. To try and attract new subs, DStv has substantially reduced its decoder prices.”

Despite these negative factors, there are plenty of reasons for cheer. Nearly two-thirds of TV homes (36.2 million) took digital signals by end-2015, up from 18.7% (7.9 million) in 2010. Complete digital transition was achieved in Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda by end-2015. This count will increase from six countries at end-2015 to 11 by end-2016. Digital TV penetration will reach 99.9% in 35 forecast countries by 2021 – or 74.7 million homes.

About two-thirds (50.95 million) of TV households will take DTT (pay and free-to-air combined) as their primary TV signal in 2021, up from only 1.4% (0.59 million) at end-2010. By 2021, 14.85 million – nearly a fifth of TV households – will be primary pay DTT and 36.10 million free-to-air DTT (or 48.3% of TV homes).

DTT will challenge satellite as the top pay TV platform by 2021. In fact, satellite TV will only grow from 19.3% of TV households in 2015 to 21.2% by 2021, whereas pay DTT will rocket from 10.2% to 19.9% over the same period.

Of the 16.91 million pay TV subscribers at end-2015, 10.66 million were pay satellite TV and 5.64 million pay DTT. The pay total will more than double to 33.23 million by 2021, with satellite TV contributing 15.88 million and pay DTT another 14.85 million.

South Africa supplied 5.95 million of the 2015 regional pay TV subs; growing to 8.62 million by 2021. Nigeria will close in on South Africa; increasing from 3.63 million in 2015 to 7.52 million in 2021.