TopTV loses 3 more TV channels

2012-12-20 07:55 Cape Town – On Digital Media's (ODM) TopTV is losing another three TV channels within days as Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) is yanking its Showtime, Silver and Star! channels from the struggling South African pay-TV service.

The triple whammy loss of content from its bouquet is the latest barrage of bad news to hit TopTV which has faced a constant uphill struggle with losing channels during the whole of 2012 and even before.

Last month TopTV lost 1KZN which deserted TopTV for rival DStv and Manchester United TV (MUTV) which suddenly disappeared without warning and terminated its contract with TopTV with immediate effect.

TopTV is not saying why Turner Broadcasting System is immediately removing Showtime (TopTV channel 111), Silver (TopTV channel 112) and Star! (TopTV channel 179) other than that it's happening for "operational reasons".

Cut potential financial losses

With no reason given, it's all but certain that South Africa's TV industry will speculate that the channels are being removed because Turner – which is definitely knowledgeable about TopTV's problems such as entering into business rescue in October – no longer has faith in the platform with the resultant implications which arise once a company is placed in business rescue.

TopTV might not be able to pay its debt or money owed to Turner in exchange for getting the channels.

Turner might possibly be afraid that it won't be paid and now wants out of carriage agreements to try and cut potential financial losses should TopTV not be able to exit business rescue in the way that 1time airline - which was also in business rescue - was unsuccessful.

TopTV says Turner Broadcasting System (which also runs Boomerang, CNN International and Cartoon Network on rival MultiChoice's DStv) "recently informed" TopTV that the three TV channels will suddenly be discontinued from 31 December.

Showtime was a movie channel. Star! was a general entertainment and entertainment news channel with a strong emphasis on Hollywood and Hollywood news and the only way South African viewers could see the daily entertainment news show Showbiz Tonight (produced by CNN).

Silver was South Africa's only real cinema nouveau TV channel with some art house independent movies from a library catalogue of titles from mostly the 80's and 90's.

Turner has been piping all three of these TV channels into South Africa from Scandinavia through the Scandinavian television broadcaster NonStop Television which is part of the Turner Broadcasting System.

No new big commercial TV channels

TopTV is now again telling subscribers that the ailing South African pay-TV operator – which is urgently looking for local investment and backers with deep pockets – will once again begin the process of looking to find replacement channels – a process TopTV has had to do several times just this year.

"The supplier of the three affected channels, Showtime, Silver and Star! has taken the decision to terminate the African distribution of its channels for operational reasons, and this decision is thus beyond the control of TopTV," said the Woodmead based pay-TV operator in a statement issued late on Wednesday.

After losing 1KZN and Manchester United TV (MUTV) last month, TopTV losing channels is nothing new for its subscribers. TopTV lost Hi Nolly and One Music in November 2011 and 2012 started with TopTV losing Current TV in March.

The ongoing loss of channels means that TopTV's product and channel offering to subscribers are not expanding like MultiChoice's DStv offering, since TopTV's newly added channels – which happens after a lag period – only in essence serve to replace channels which had been lost. TopTV added no new big commercial TV channels in either 2011 or 2012.

'Working on a renewed product plan'

"TopTV is grateful for the continued support of its loyal subscribers during this period, and would like to reassure them that the company is working hard on a renewed product plan for the New Year," said TopTV about the latest channel loss crisis facing the company.

Ian Woodrow, TopTV's vice president for channels said that "although this comes at a challenging time in the company's development, with a business rescue process currently underway, TopTV is confident that it will be able to secure alternative channels early in 2013".

"In the interim, and until these replacements are found, we will endeavour to secure additional channels and programming that will be of interest to our subscribers," said Woodrow.

With Discovery Networks International which started the Discovery Science, TLC and Investigation Discovery on TopTV, but suddenly made TLC and Investigation Discovery also available on DStv a year ago thereby diluting TopTV's exclusive product mix value offering (Discovery Science is still only available on TopTV), TopTV has only one remaining strong and unique channel distributor left on its ailing platform: Fox.

Fox International Channels Africa (FIC Africa) supplies the Fox Entertainment, FX and Fox Retro channels to ODM which can only be seen on TopTV.

FIC Africa, through Fox Entertainment and FX has brought and continue to bring South African pay-TV viewers who are subscribed to TopTV great series and exclusive TV properties like The Walking Dead, Hell on Wheels, Falling Skies, Copper as well as other shows very close to the American broadcasting dates.

This excellent programming and international distribution strategy adds big value to TopTV's platform since these remaining unique channels have exclusive content which are rolled out quickly and can only be seen on TopTV in South Africa.