The nature of a broadcast TV service makes it incredibly difficult to let subscribers choose their own channels, MultiChoice told MyBroadband.
Nyiko Shiburi, MultiChoice’s group general manager for broadcast technology, said the technology is built to place channels into a relatively small number of groups.
If you let each subscriber become their own group, this would place more strain on the system than the bandwidth offered by DStv’s satellites could handle.
For anti-piracy reasons, which are driven by Hollywood studios, DStv constantly has to cycle encryption keys through its decoders.
“That’s why you sometimes see an error message when you switch on a decoder for the first time when it’s been off for awhile,” said Shiburi.
If you have to generate content encryption keys for each individual subscriber, this would cause a massive amount of signalling traffic.
It could take days for a new subscriber to be activated if such individual channel selection were allowed, said MultiChoice.
Even if the technical challenges are overcome, the larger obstacle to allowing subscribers to choose their own channels is pricing.
To explain the model, Shiburi compared it to a gym. “You can’t just pay for the treadmill,” he said.
Capital expenditure costs are high, so you have to package things in such a way that they become affordable to as many people as possible.
However, would it be possible for DStv to alter its package structure to look more like some overseas satellite pay-TV services?
The number of channels groups are roughly the same, but some of them split their premium sport and entertainment channels – which may then be bolted onto cheaper packages.
MultiChoice has warned on several occasions that making such significant changes to its package structure will come with consequences to pricing.
Not all channels cost the same and some licensing costs decrease as the number of potential viewers increase, due to being able to offset content costs with advertising.
“We know that our subscribers want the flexibility of choosing their own channels,” said MultiChoice.
“However, by packaging channels in the way we do into predetermined bouquets, we make the services more affordable for more of our customers.”
“We are always improving choice and flexibility by improving our on-demand services, that is why we are looking at how we can further address that desire on various online platforms.”