Tuesday, July 21, 2020


Dear DStv Subscribers,
          As one myself I thought I would find out what Mark Rayner had to say about various aspects of what we have been watching that have been bugging me for some time. He is the CEO of MultiChoice the owners of DStv that has a total of some 18-million subscribers, not only in South Africa but in other parts of our continent.
          Here’s what I put to him on Monday 6 July followed by his answers. My additional comments are in italics.
Content & Repeats
Me: As there are so many repeats of shows why is it not possible to ensure that they do not appear at about the same time night after night? This sort of thing happens often. The Graham Norton show on 120 was an example in the last few days.
Mark: Regarding content, as Africa’s most loved storyteller we invest significantly into both local and international content – partnering with both local talent and the world’s best production studios to ensure our customers have an unrivalled selection to choose from.  DStv has one of the lower repeat rates globally, but the amount of TV watched per day in Africa – amongst the highest globally - means repeats are sometimes inevitable. We actively push our channel suppliers for fresher content and have started flagging which content is “new” to promote customer awareness. Channels also have strict performance criteria to ensure fresh hours and ratings remain at acceptable levels. He missed my point which was: It is surely possible, or should be, to schedule shows so that the same repeat does not appear night after night virtually at the same time. I don’t accept that repeats are “inevitable.” They are clearly there because they are cheaper than buying new shows. The “new” labels are very often not true anyway. If DStv was in the shoe business how long would it last if customers heard that the “new” shoes they had bought had already been worn for several days by somebody else?
Me: The promos appear to be increasingly over done. The way they interrupt the shows that you are watching without warning sometimes makes you think you have flipped channels by mistake. Talk about Pointless. The one for this even interrupts the actual Pointless show while you are watching it. (I’m not talking about when the promo is connected to the bed that is being advertised). How inane is that? And this sort of thing is not uncommon with other promos. In general they are very often pointless because what they tell you makes nonsense of what you can actually see. As
an example the film MacDonald & Dodd appeared at around 6.00 pm last Saturday with a promo telling us it would be on at 8.00 pm on Monday. The film was repeated again last night (Sunday) at the about the same time while the promo continued to tell us to expect it tonight (Monday) at 8.00 pm. When it was screened on the Monday we were told in the top left hand corner it was NEW.
Mark: On the issue of promotions, it’s important we ensure our customers are aware of what is available to watch so that they get the most of their subscription. That said, a promotion that advertises something in the past is clearly not acceptable. Some promos are scheduled by us as DStv and some by the channel themselves, in this case the BBC. The scheduling of DStv promos has been a manual one which can be prone to human error from time to time. Since we are committed to providing customers with a quality viewing experience, we have introduced a new technology for DStv promo scheduling that will significantly reduce the occurrence of over exposure to a particular promotion by applying more accurate targeting of promos to the relevant viewing segments and limiting the number of runs of any particular promo to avoid overkill.  Regarding the BBC specific promos, we have shared your concerns – and you are not the first customer to raise this – with the BBC to address directly on the channels under their control. Please let us know if you experience any improvement over the coming weeks and months. To clarify with regards to the series, McDonald & Dodds, it premieres on Mondays with repeats on a Wednesday at 21:00, Saturday at 18:50 and Sunday at 20:30 – to give viewers other opportunities to see the show.
Timing of Shows
Me: When it comes to deciding when to put on shows there doesn’t seem to be any planning at all. How sensible is it to have a Christmas episode of QI in June? And to have a Paul O’Grady dog one at 10.00 at night?
Mark: According to our research, and viewership patterns, we find most viewers prefer watching QI in sequence and channels typically do not skip over these for that reason. Unless I can’t see for looking QI has stand alone episodes. They don’t follow one another in any kind of sequence and you don’t have to have watched one episode to enable you to follow the one that comes after that.
Me: Regarding competitions like the Great British Bake Off surely it would be better to finish showing the various episodes before starting the repeats otherwise viewers don’t know where they are.

Mark: Third-party channels, for example BBC BRIT which broadcasts among others, the Great British Bake-Off, are responsible for their own broadcasts and content inventory. Although they often broadcast episodes of the same season before the full season ends, we have made them aware that it is confusing to some customers.  Confusing is an understatement. It’s a competition that has quite a number of episodes before the winner is chosen. So if the BBC repeats episodes along the way viewers can be left wondering whether they will ever see the final.
Me: When it comes to the shortened form of any type of cricket, who came up with the idea of making them more boring than even the dullest part of a normal test match with every shot being repeated two or three times and even more often if somebody goes out. We are being taken for complete dumb dumbs. Surely people would be more interested in seeing more of the match than all these unrealistic repeats.
Mark: SuperSport remains of the leading sports broadcasters in the world. The team is continuously striving to improve its offering, and with the growth of short format viewing we understand how important this is to satisfy and keep sports fans stimulated. Our production team is constantly improving the quality of highlight packages. At the same time our technology division is exploring a growing global trend to utilise machine learning to improve these highlights.  As a cricket fan and former player myself, I do sometimes share your frustration that a short highlights reel doesn’t capture all the key moments in a game. For that reason we schedule longer highlights versions too for key games. We’ve shared your comments with the SuperSport cricket production team.
My First Question
Me: How about conducting a survey among DStv subscribers to see what they think about all the promos we have to contend with to get some entertainment and various other aspects of what we are given?
Mark: He steered well clear of this question. Would this be too risky in case what the majority of viewers actually think would involve too much of an overhaul of what is currently being screened?
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Mark finished his reply to me by saying: “We strive at all times to provide an uninterrupted video entertainment service with the best available content for our valued customers.” Do you subscribers agree that this is what you get?

Thanks Mark for your prompt and comprehensive answers.

Jon, a Consumer Watchdog who hopes he got his fellow subscribers the answers to some of the concerns they might have had about what we pay for when we sign up for DStv.

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