Opinion: DStv BoxOffice via Broadband – Brilliant or Foolish?


It’s been a long day, and you finally decide to just zone out in front of the television and unwind. You start with your favourite channels and then proceed to lesser favourites in the hope of catching something that you find mildly entertaining. For R529 pm (DSTV premium subscription) and a multitude of channels promising the very best in entertainment, you would expect to find something interesting to watch whenever you switch on the telly. Yet, time and time again, all one finds is a multitude of choice with no real options!
I am certain that I am not alone with the above experience but this is not the forum to discuss such gripes. Rather is it completely relevant to discuss the recent DSTV offering, BoxOffice – but I would like to briefly state my opinion on this new product. BoxOffice is an on-demand movie rental service but it is only available to DSTV’s PVR subscribers. That means that if I wanted to use BoxOffice, I would have to firstly upgrade my decoder and then pay an additional subscription of R65 pm. Only then would I be allowed to rent out the ‘latest’ movies (R25 for a 48 hour loan). It does not take an actuary to ascertain that this makes no financial sense unless of course you are already a PVR subscriber and you happen to find a movie on offer that you meant to watch on circuit but never got around to. As a premium DSTV subscriber, I would expect the latest movies to be on offer with my current bouquet and simple economics dictate that if a movie is popular on BoxOffice, it is going to be a long time before it is available on DSTV.

The reason for this post is the announcement from John Kotsaftis, CEO of DStv online, that BoxOffice, or a service like it will be launched online by the end of 2011 and that it was launched on satellite first due to South Africa’s broadband constraints. This new service will not only be available to DStv subscribers but to all South Africans. Firstly, this is encouraging news. Multichoice believe that by the end of the year, South Africa’s ‘broadband constraints’ would not be as limiting. With the recent announcement of the MTN LTE pilot and the ongoing broadband pricing wars, this is perhaps a fair assumption and I am sure most of us would agree that it’s about time. However, I think DStv may want to take cognisance of one factor before embarking on this venture. Reality.
If broadband prices are reduced considerably, it would still only be economically viable to download encrypted movies if you have an ADSL line. I doubt that cellular data costs would ever drop as low as those offered to ADSL customers, but I would be pleased to be proven wrong in this instance. This implies that the user would have to add the cost of downloading the movie to the price charged by the service provider, and bear in mind that these movies are typically larger than 1 GB. Furthermore lower bandwidth costs and faster speeds could result in many choosing to rather just download movies from international websites (you know the type) thereby saving the subscription fee to the service provider and removing sharing and time restrictions that would be otherwise imposed. I intend to neither justify or condone this option but wish to merely point out there is a strong liklihood of it occurring.
Another point for the brains at DStv to consider is that after paying to watch a movie, most people would be frustrated if they are forced to watch the movie on their Laptop screens. They would therefore need to either have the ability to connect their laptop up to their TV or use a dedicated media player. How this player would have the ability to play the encrypted video is anyone’s guess? The pricing would also have to be very competitive, if the intention is to get people who watch movies at home to suddenly stop going to their DVD store but to rather get a movie from this new service. Seems like a lot more inconvenience for very little (if any) benefit.
Companies at the forefront of this type of offering internationally (Netflix, Blockbuster) do not only focus on streaming VOD (Video on Demand) but have other offerings like DVD by mail delivery. Although recent Netflix pricing changes appear to be encouraging subscribers to use the streaming feature rather than the mail option, this has been met with severe criticism from subscribers. Furthermore whether such a mail delivery system would work in South Africa is debatable, especially if one considers the decision by Amazon to no longer ship goods to SA via the South African Post Office.
Many Apple users already have access to VOD via the US iStore and the cost of hiring a new release is typically $4 with a vast library of other movies available either for sale or for rent at a reduced rate. I cannot see a future where the proposed business model for BoxOffice VOD via broadband makes sense. So for now, I’ll keep watching my blockbusters at the movies (where they can be truly appreciated) and the Discovery channel late at night.
Update: The Undecided Future of My Television

  1. One would be foolish to underestimate laziness. For some yes, they’d have to get a new decoder (why do you not have a PVR already though?), but for the most part Box Office is extremely convenient! There’s no need to even buy an add-on box or anything. This allows for some extreme couch potato goodness. Yes, R25 for a movie is a bit expensive. I totally agree. But heck, for the convenience I’d heartily pay that. Remember this is not aimed at your tech savvy users. My parents don’t know how to download movies. Even if they did, they have to watch it on tiny laptops with probably lots of ads as well having to sift through torrents to find a good quality.
    This service in my opinion is genius. Another case in point. My sister lives on a farm. Their Internet is expensive, but they have DSTV. They don’t have time or bandwidth to stream/download movies on laptops. They also can’t drive to the nearest DVD shop, as it’s an hour or two away. Box Office fills this gap.
    Proper consistent quality digital distribution will always have a market. Even for R25 a movie.

    1. Hi NielDLR. Thanks for taking the time to comment. You have raised some valid points especially the one about your sister but my parents are even more technologically challenged. I am sure that that market would prefer getting a DVD rather than navigating through a menu and having somebody charge your credit card. Heaven forbid they would never want their credit card details in cyberspace. (I have not told them yet that it is probaly already out there)

  2. I think the service will be helpful, but the user experience during the launch weekend was pretty bad!  Not only did it take forever to sign up, but I also got charged for a movie I ordered without the movie actually being delivered.  This is also after I received a text message from Dstv informing me that my first two movies will be free, due to the service issues experienced.  Time will tell if they will actually credit back the R50 they charged me for 2 movies and only delivering one for viewing… 

    1. Hi Herman, so sorry to hear about your bad experience. We can confirm that there will be no charges for unsuccessful rentals. The Rental History screen lists ALL rental codes generated and is not a reflection of  your actual account. If you have indeed been billed for movies incorrectly, please don’t hesitate to contact the BoxOffice Contact Centre (011) 289 2444 who will investigate & resolve (please remember to have  your smartcard number handy). Any other queries, you can contact us on our FaceBook Page or via twitter (@DStv) or our forums http://forum.dstv.com/index.php

  3. Firstly, its worth saying that I haven’t actually tried BoxOffice beyond scrolling through the menu, nor am I even a DStv subscriber. I’m lucky enough to have a decent ADSL connection, and have always managed to find a way to watch the movies I want to (totally legally, of course!)
    But, you know, I’m not really their market…
    DStv made a very clever strategic decision to not run this over IP but, as the network (especially mobile) inevitably improves, they’ll move into this space. For now, it’s a simple case of the IP networks not being stable enough, expansive enough, or easy enough for the general population – my mom, like Niel’s, wouldn’t have a CLUE where to even start to find a movie online!
    I don’t know how much it costs to rent a movie from a store these days – hell, I don’t know where to find a store these days – but it can’t be much less than R25. For the ease of being able to press a button, on the screen I’m already watching TV on, and kick back in the comfort of my living room to a movie of my choice, I’d happily pay R25.
    Secretly, I can’t wait for a day where I can pay a reduced monthly fee to get all of DStv’s on-demand services (and possibly SuperSport) over my DSL line, instead, without the hassle of all the extra infrastructural requirements. Win for DStv, win for me!
    It’s a great service, a great innovation for SA, and I can’t wait to see how it develops…

  4. Great price point, in my opinion: at R25 (~$3.67), it’s actually cheaper than renting an HD movie on iTunes ($4.99).

    1. You obviously don’t watch sport? HD sport is the only reason I have DStv. 

    2. But this is the launch price and I suspect that the price of HD movies will soon be at a premium bringing it more in line with the price on the iTunes store. Also if you are currently not a PVR subsciber then you need to factor the cost of that additional R65 into the cost to be fair.

  5. If you haven’t got DStv and want a full rundown and review (with screenshots) have a look at my review at http://kwantozonke.co.za/2011/07/boxoffice/

  6. Please I wont pay for Dstv in my life. Why do I say so, Because I have a 60 inch Plasma with my 7.2 surround sound connceted and i have my pc connected to the plasma. And if thats noty enough i have uncapped ADSL from mweb for R249. Thats all I need I downlowd my movies and and new series for nothing. and the best part is no adds. So thank you DSTV but you will not screw me over like the rest of your subscribers

    1. At least making use of BoxOffice does not constitute illegal/criminal activity 😉

  7. Thanks for taking the time to comment everyone. For clarity I do believe that there are people to whom this would make sense for viz. DStv customers who are already PVR subscribers. To those of us who are not PVR subscribers, the cost of additional hardware and monthly subscription for this service can not be justified. Furthermore, the point I was trying to make was that, a streaming option of BoxOffice would not be a success but perhaps there is a market out there for un-tech savy people who want to easily download movies of the internet. How this content is streamed to their TV still needs to be considered however.

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