The race to see who will emerge as MultiChoice’s main pay-TV competitor
has claimed its first casualty, with sister company e.Sat
announcing its partnership with the incumbent. e.Sat announced recently
that its 24hour news channel will be part of the DStv bouquet, writes Lloyd Gedye in the Mail & Guardian.

Earlier this year e.Sat, Telkom Media, On Digital Media and Walking on Water were awarded pay-TV licences by communications authority Icasa to break MultiChoice’s stranglehold on the market.

Most were expected to launch in mid-2008, but CEO Marcel Golding says e.Sat decided to become a channel supplier instead of a platform operator.

Icasa councillor Zolisa Masiza says that, although the licences have been awarded, they have not been issued and the regulator still has to sit down with each new pay-TV entrant to finalise conditions.

Masiza says e.Sat has not approached Icasa to discuss this new arrangement with MultiChoice, but one of the conditions of the licence is that the operator has to offer a subscription service.

“I don’t think it needs a licence to provide content to MultiChoice,” says Masiza. “It will have to explain to us how this arrangement relates to the licence it was awarded.” Golding says e.Sat is not clear on whether it needs a licence and this is an issue Icasa will have to evaluate.

He says e.Sat’s position during the Icasa hearings was that there was only space in the market for two pay-TV operators and, after Icasa licensed four new entrants, e.Sat took a “commercially sensible” decision to partner with MultiChoice.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Mail&Guardian Online.