Is DStv’s Downfall Inevitable? The Struggle to Adapt in a Digital Age

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Digital Satellite Television, abbreviated DStv, once, my beloved satellite entertainment provider has lost its mojo, and many foresee its downfall is imminent. DStv once a pride of African digital news and entertainment pre-paid subscriptions seem to have run out of ideas, and is losing subscribers at a reckoning rate, and a change of business model is all that is needed knowing technological advancements have introduced new players in the digital entertainment and attractive services while DStv is still stuck in the 1990s when it prospered because of monopoly.

Consumers Are Now Too Sophisticated

DStv business plan that was crafted in the 1990s drew her assurances from the fact there was no credible competition, and hence customers could keep forking out the cash despite consuming products that weren’t up-to-date nor sufficient choices were offered. In those days, the internet was still an infant.

The internet was not readily available as it is today to pose a suffocating competition to satellite digital providers. If it is news, social messaging apps today provide members with instant information captioned with videos and printed materials faster than regular television services.

As a result, regular television services always find themselves chasing shadows. Since consumers have become very sophisticated, the archaic business plan applied by DStv cannot hold them anymore.

DStv Improved Her Services

True, they made a concerted effort to cope with technological changes and refurbished herself but the changes were insufficient to arrest the tide that was moving away from her. DStv made customer differentiation to capture even the lowest subscribers by reducing the channels and pumping more local content relevant to the users.

That business strategy worked as subscriptions grew but top-end subscribers were also downgrading to cheaper content. The argument behind the DStv model was to sell what customers want and what they do not want. So, essentially customers were forced to subsidise programs they did not want to view the channels they liked!

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Most satellite and cable service providers follow the same business model but competition which DStv rarely faced blunted her ability to visualize the future of satellite entertainment services. In the developed World streaming struggled in earlier days but now is expected to break even. Streaming offers choices are AI-powered and can gather user data that helps providers gauge user preferences and strategize to meet them.

DStv programs like those of African sourced tend to be of poor quality, and viewers switch to other providers to get top-notch content. GTV came in 2007 and replaced DStv as the sole provider of the English Premier League, in the African continent. In a blinking of an eyelid, DStv lost a lot of customers who shifted their allegiance to the former.

GTV’s appeal was not only on access to the EPL but of more significance was cost affordability. Most people felt they could shoulder it. As a result, GTV satellite dishes sprawled all over Africa and many began scripting the DStv obituary. They were wrong.

In less than two years GTV declared bankruptcy as financial seismic movements in the developed world that claimed famous companies like Warner Brothers brought sad news to the GTV subscribers. The demise of GTV restored the fortunes of DStv as the latter quickly inherited the EPL, and the lost customer base was restored.

Lesson number one was that GTV did her marketing surveys but was undone by over-dependence on bank loans that heavily relied on global economic stability to be repaid. With the 2008 financial meltdown in the Western world, GTV was severely exposed and was found wanting.

Lesson number two, most of the DStv clients are soccer fanatics, but DStv has been forcing them to buy other services they hardly watch. That kind of arrogance is an upshot of monopoly, and DStv was hibernating under a squeaky yet leaking roof.

Lesson number three was that high-paying clients were dissatisfied with the entertainment services DStv was providing. DStv rarely introduced the latest movies and most of their content is outdated, and such clients were unimpressed and opted to downgrade their premium products to lower ones. That hit DStv hard on the pocket since payment was much lower in other packages compared to the premium option.

Lesson number four was although DStv introduced Showmax and added the EPL there many customers were unfazed because it meant coughing more cash while the economic vice was squeezing them. Most clients cannot afford the money razing Showmax but would prefer to get a package that covers most soccer games with news and spiritual channels.

They do not need to pay and access channels like KICKS: The era of kung-fu once captivated audiences in the 1970s and 1980s is no longer a cup of tea for most of us. Programs like Maisha, for example, may be local but have seen dwindling interest because of quality concerns.

Lesson number five, customers want more leverage to pick a package rather than being forced to pay for programs they do not need. For example, sports may be an independent package let’s say costing Tshs 20,000/= per month. News and gospel channels cost Tshs 10,000/= per month.

Movie channels priced at Tshs 15, 000/= per month. Reality channels cost Tshs 10,000/= per month. Local channels alone Tshs 10,000/= per month. Such a payment model available alongside the current offers will attract more subscribers whose teether cannot reach the current packages as they are priced today.

The DStv app called My DStv is poorly designed and hence user unfriendly when compared with similar apps from the US. Those who have tested user experience from Paramount+, Hulu, Peacock, NBC, CBS Sports and others will always feel DStv is treating her customer base shabbily.

It is as if DStv is offering subscribers a service for free while it is in the business of raking in cash. One wonders why the Bundesliga is not available as part of the sports buffet. It is not expensive, and so is the French League and the South American ones particularly from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. They are very cheap but not taken seriously, I am afraid.

DStv is slowly coming to terms that it no longer stitches up the African digital entertainment market as it used to in the past, and adopting new strategies to keep up the clientèle it has while expanding it is proving a daunting task. As North American apps begin to probe the African digital entertainment market, I cannot see how DStv will survive.

The streaming services at a monthly token will send DStv to her unplanned graveyard. It will cause our hearts to grieve to see another African franchise vanishing before our own eyes because it opted to be a dinosaur instead of a reforming agent of change and survival.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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25 days ago

So true. The business arrogance is the the catalyst for their demise. With reliability of internet connectivity improving and data charges coming down with the advent of Starlink, the end of DSTV and national TVs is upon us.

You, TZ Digest you also have the genes of overlooking the needs of customers by posting very outdated posts on your WhatsApp channel. Surely posting 2023 news in June 2024 is getting your act wrong. Why do you do that? I am sure someone within your structures raised it but arrogance took over. It’s easier to see a log in another person’s eye.

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