Its biggest drop came between September 2022 and September 2023, with subscribers plunging 14%.

South Africa’s biggest private broadcaster, DStv, has seen its local subscriber growth slow substantially over the past five years.

MyBroadband – South Africa’s IT news website, analysed the movements in 90-day active DStv subscribers in South Africa from 2019 to 2023.

The company’s most recent results were for the first half of DStv’s 2023 financial year, ending September 2023.

MyBroadband tracked the growth or decline of subscribers across its three main customer segments — Premium, Mid-market, and Mass market — between the last days of September in each year.


The segments consist of DStv customers on the following packages:

Premium — Premium and Compact Plus
Mid-market — Compact, Family, and Commercial
Mass market — Extra, Access, EasyView

The Premium segment’s subscribers declined yearly, but the declines have remained fairly low — between 2% and 9%.

The Mid-market segment last posted growth between September 2020 and September 2021, after which its customers started declining.

Its biggest drop came between September 2022 and September 2023, with subscribers plunging 14%.

The Mass market had moderately high subscriber growth rates for the two years from September 2019 to September 2021. This ensured that overall, 90-day active subscribers continued to grow for several years.

However, from September 2022 to September 2023, Mid-market subscribers declined by 1%, while overall subscribers dropped by 5% — two firsts for the broadcaster when using its 90-day active metric.

The graph below shows the DStv South Africa subscriber increases or decreases for each segment

Over the past few years, MultiChoice has repeatedly altered its subscriber reporting metrics, making it difficult to compare recent performance with its older history of relatively strong growth.

One of the major changes was in 2019, when it stopped providing the number of its Premium package subscribers and grouped these users with Compact Plus while confusingly calling the combined segment “Premium.”

This came at a time when the Premium user base had started to decline, but Compact Plus was seeing some moderate growth.

Another significant alteration was switching to a 90-day active subscriber reporting period rather than reporting the absolute number of subscribers by the end of the half-year or full-year.

If one used the older metric of absolute subscribers, DStv already started seeing a decline in customers from its full-year results for 2022/2023.

Streaming services eating DStv’s lunch

DStv has come under enormous pressure from international video streaming services in the past few years.

Most of its competitors — including Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Netflix — offer substantially more affordable and flexible packages than DStv.

However, the growth of these services in Africa continues to be limited by poor broadband penetration and high prices.

Several major streaming services are not ignorant of these challenges. They offer quality modes that significantly reduce mobile data consumption.

Being keenly aware that most South Africans access the Internet through a smartphone, they also offer cheap mobile-only subscriptions.

In addition, the likes of Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ have also partnered with mobile networks to offer reduced prices on bundles that can only be used for video streaming.

South Africa’s broadband picture is far better than most of the rest of Africa.

In many of these countries, DStv has continued to see strong growth as its primary pay-TV service still operates on a satellite broadcast with a substantial coverage footprint.

MultiChoice is also investing heavily in its own streaming product, Showmax, which was recently revamped and relaunched on the Peacock platform as part of a collaboration with US media giant NBCUniversal.

The company recently told MyBroadband that demand for its mobile-only entertainment and Premier League package, priced at R89 per month, has been particularly good.

(c) MyBroadband

*MyBroadband is South Africa’s biggest and best IT news website