How DStv is fighting online piracy

DStv Online CEO John Kotsaftis says quality, convenience, price and availability are the key ingredients in convincing consumers to pay for content. By Duncan McLeod.


Broadcasting the latest television shows in South Africa soon after they have been aired in their home markets, and tying this to an affordable and convenient viewing experience, will go a long way in countering the growing threat posed by online piracy.

That’s the view of John Kotsaftis, who heads DStv Online, the MultiChoice-owned business that develops the DStv BoxOffice and DStv On Demand services.

He says if content suppliers don’t make it easy for broadcasters to make their content available timeously and easily to their customers, then consumers will “find a way of doing it themselves”.

“If you give someone a product that is easy to use at the right price and with minimum fuss and at high quality, then they will pay for it.”

Kotsaftis says the content industry, including the big Hollywood studios, were fortunate in that they had a chance to study the impact of the Internet on the music industry and find ways of reacting before they were engulfed by it.

The studios are reacting by making their content available to broadcasters much earlier than before. So, in the case of series such as the BBC’s Top Gear, the shows are aired in South Africa just weeks — and sometimes even just days — after they are broadcast in their home markets.

“The studios used to give us their content in a later window,” Kotsaftis says. “We are now moving closer and closer to the release date in the US.”

John Kotsaftis

John Kotsaftis

He adds that MultiChoice has also pressured its suppliers to release content earlier to offset the threat posed by online piracy where consumers are able to download the latest shows on peer-to-peer networks like BitTorrent within hours of them being broadcast for the first time internationally.

“If a movie comes out on BoxOffice on the same day as the DVD is released and it costs R25, why pirate it? Convenience, quality and price all play a role in this thing,” Kotsaftis says. “If you make it easy for people, they will choose the path that is easiest and most convenient.”

Already, MultiChoice is renting out 400 000 movies a month to DStv subscribers who have the necessary personal video recorder (PVR) decoders to receive the BoxOffice service. Kotsaftis attributes this number to the relative simplicity of using the service. “You literally send one SMS and you’ve rented a movie,” he says.

On the Internet, the company offers a larger volume of content because it isn’t constrained by the storage limitations of the PVR. Here, it charges subscribers R25/movie and non-subscribers pay R30. Older movies cost R10 each. Uptake has been “quite low”, a function, Kotsaftis says, of the relatively small broadband user base in South Africa and the fact that MultiChoice hasn’t actively marketed the product yet.

He adds that the company is taking a “mobile first” approach to delivering content online, hoping to capture the youth market that may not pay for a subscription-TV service. “I’m talking about youngsters walking around with hard drives full of content. They might not go to pay TV, but I don’t want to lose them as customers,” he says. “If they’d prefer to consume on a tablet and they don’t want a full pay-TV package, they should still be able to get something from us.”  — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media

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