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MultiChoice refuses to share exclusive rights

Sub-Saharan Africa’s main DStv operator MultiChoice has refused to resell its exclusive rights to certain popular content, rejecting calls from the Kenyan industry regulator on the basis that it would damage revenues.

The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and other industry rivals had demanded that MultiChoice share its exclusive content, including those to air English Premier League (EPL) content.

But MultiChoice has refused the demands, claiming that rights sharing would not only diminish revenue, but would reduce the value of the content with knock-on effects to the sports and film industries, while advertisers would be alienated from the sector.

“Exclusivity is the principle on which pay-TV works,” said Nolo Letele, executive chairman of MultiChoice Africa, according to Business Daily. “The sports rights periodically come up for renewal and anyone is free to bid.”

The exclusive rights have fuelled MultiChoice’s market dominance in Africa – including in Kenya – leading to claims from the CCK that the company is acting in an uncompetitive manner and forcing consumers to subscribe to the operator as opposed to considering rival companies.

The CCK is supporting calls from industry rivals such as the Wananchi Group for MultiChoice to make its exclusive content available to other operators in order to stimulate competition and the Kenyan market. The CCK claims that similar content-sharing models have already proven successful in Europe – on the UK and Italian markets – and in Africa, in Nigeria.

MultiChoice insists, however, that South Africa’s experiments with the content-sharing model have prompted the financial value of content to decrease, with the removal of exclusivity de-incentivising the market and hitting the earnings of sporting and filming organisations. Advertisers have also turned away from the sector as a result of the lack of exclusive offerings.

The South African operator has nonetheless proposed that it might re-sell some content to rival operators provided delayed airing is guaranteed, meaning MultiChoice retains first airing rights.

MultiChoice has previously been subjected to an investigation by the Competition Authority in Kenya over its market dominant position, with concerns raised as to the effect of its monopoly over the regional industry.

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