DStv shortchanging subscribers

Garikai Mazara Radio & Television
On April 1, DStv hiked its subscription fees with the most expensive, that is the Premium bouquet, going up from $73 to $75. How most people wished it was a real Fool’s Day joke.
On its website, DStv justifies the increase arguing that, “We review our subscription fees annually when we do our planning for our new financial year. While we want to offer you affordable digital entertainment, we have to make sure our business can survive well into the future.”

Though many subscribers might not have been peeved by the two-dollar increment, it is the inability to choose which channels to watch, that have left many with more questions than answers. Many subscribers are of the view that DStv short changes its customers by denying them the opportunity to choose the channels that they should watch.

This is an argument that the satellite television provider has a ready answer for, “We understand that you feel you’d save more money if you could choose only the channels you want to watch. Unfortunately this is not the case. It is actually more cost effective to structure channels into packages. Choosing your own package with your own channel selection would mean you would end up paying more than you are now (and for just a few channels). That is why we offer a range of packages with different fees and channel combinations – to cater for the viewing choice and pocket of a wide range of customers.”

What might further irk Zimbabwean subscribers will be the realisation that, on average, they pay more than their South African counterparts for the same packages, a skewed arrangement that has seen some local subscribers moving their accounts to South Africa. Whereas Zimbabweans pay $75 for the Premium bouquet, the South Africans pay R665, which translates to roughly $66,50, given the prevailing weak rand.

For the cheapest Access package, while locals pay $10, South Africans pay R75, which is about $7.50. The Family package attracts $20 locally, whilst South Africans have to pay about a dollar-fifty less, at R185. The Compact package comes in at $32 locally and South Africans pay R295 for it, which is roughly $29,50. Compact Plus for locals costs $52 whilst South Africans pay R399, which is about $39,90.

The difference is not limited to content only as the disparity is shared when it comes to hardware, a development which Liz Dziva, the Multichoice Zimbabwe spokesperson, attributed to the obtaining import tax regimes in Zimbabwe. In South Africa, the basic 1132 decoder retails for an average R370 ($37) whereas it fetches $75 locally.

The recently introduced Explora decoder costs R2 289 in South Africa yet it trades at $430 locally.

The disparity in package values between Zimbabwe and South Africa, which Dziva attributed to market forces and any other force that might be at play when a fee is set, has seen some local subscribers migrating to the South African platform, which though illegal, is happening much to the knowledge of Multichoice Zimbabwe. “We are aware that some people are changing their subscriptions from being Zimbabwe domiciled to South Africa and this is unlawful. As much as there are laws which prohibit such migration, people will always cheat,” she said.

DStv, which is easily the largest satellite television provider on the African continent, has been coming under increasing pressure from its subscribers to vary its bouquet system, such that it allows customers to choose what they should watch. Most subscribers argue that some of the channels included in the other packages do not meet their tastes.

Similarly, subscribers have been calling on DStv to allow viewers a pay-per-view access, which acts in almost the same manner that pre-paid cellphone systems operate, where per second billing is the order of the day. That if you do not watch television, your subscription is not used up. In the current set-up, even if you don’t watch television for a month, your subscription account is not credited.

On a separate note, Dziva said after years of development, the various DStv bouquets now offer an unprecedented variety of channels, programming and focus points that are of special appeal to women and young people.

She said the DStv thrust into the women and young people’s audience segments was bigger and better than ever before, and is set to continuously expand and diversify.

“A wide range of the DStv platform is now geared to the needs of these segments and this will continue to grow in the months and years ahead, complementing the wide range that is available for the male audience. It’s a win-win for everyone, ensuring that all sections of the viewing public gain satisfaction and enjoyment from their DStv experience.”

Channels that are aimed primarily at women, range from E! Entertainment and Style Network, to TLC Entertainment, Telemundo, Africa Magic, Food Network and Fashion TV, as well as large sections of other channels in the various genres of on-screen action.

“Women of the 21st century have a wide range of interests, from the more serious topics to the lighter content, and DStv now covers all this with programming that fits the bill,” said Dziva.

The young viewers have a rich selection of channels and programming, including Disney, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Jim Jam, Nickelodeon, BBC Ceebies, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, ED and Mindset Learn (Educational).

Teens are catered for in almost all the channels, ranging from music to movies and from sport to social information.

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