Pay TV operators in fresh tussle with DStv over airing of EPL games

MulticChoice Kenya DSTV General Manager Felix Kyengo (left) and MulticChoice Kenya General manager Stephen Isaboke displays the DSTV Mobile decoder called Drifta during the launch on August 17, 2011. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • DStv competitors say the company’s rebuff to calls for it to begin sharing its exclusive content with other players has helped it restrict the market to itself, denying Kenyans access to affordable entertainment.
  • MultiChoice maintains exclusivity is the driver of pay TV market because it distinguishes subscribers of one provider from others.

Rival operators have again accused MultiChoice Africa-owned DStv of locking up premium content such as the English Premier League and the Tusker Premier League from them and using the exclusive rights to monopolise the market.

In a battle that has now spilled over to the industry regulator, DStv competitors say the company’s rebuff to calls for it to begin sharing its exclusive content with other players has helped it restrict the market to itself, denying Kenyans access to affordable entertainment.

ANTI-COMPETITIVE BEHAVIOUR

In an interview with the Sunday Nation last week, Wananchi Group Limited, the company that runs Zuku TV, said it has written to the Communication Commission of Kenya and the national competition watchdog over the “anti-competitive behaviour” of DStv.

“We have written to the regulators, both the CCK and the Competition Authority of Kenya, informing them that we will be lodging a formal complaint about anti-competitive practice by DStv.

Our experts, both legal and economic, have been appointed and are compiling a detailed dossier which will be lodged within the next three months,” Wananchi Group Limited managing director Richard Bells said in an email exchange. 

Chinese pay TV firm StarTimes has also been on the front line calling for the government to force DStv to share the exclusive content with other players to improve universal access to entertainment and information.

MARKET DIFFERENTIATION

However, MultiChoice maintains exclusivity is the driver of pay TV market because it distinguishes subscribers of one provider from others.

During a visit to Kenya a few months ago, MultiChoice Africa executive chairman Nolo Letele said the argument that DStv should share its content with other providers does not hold water.

“Exclusivity is the principle on which pay TV works. The only reason a customer will want to stay with a particular provider is because they get what they can’t get from a different provider. Sharing rights would affect our revenues,” Mr Letele said.

Though CCK director general Francis Wangusi said there is no regulation requiring content sharing among the pay TV operators, it is common global practice, especially in the western world that pay TV providers don’t share their content.  

Pay-TV companies can only attract subscribers who have the option of free-to-air television by significantly differentiating their services from those of rivals.

The main method of doing this is to acquire exclusive rights to a defined category of material.

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