The recent release of the Walka 7 handheld TV is the latest in a long line of devices
developed by DStv Mobile to enhance its offering to subscribers.
DStv Mobile, the mobile television division of MultiChoice (owner of the DStv pay-TV
platform), first launched its service on DVB-H enabled mobile phones and its Drifta
mobile decoder. This was followed by the USB Drifta, the Walka, the iDrifta and now
the Walka 7.
The original Walka handheld TV with its 3.5cm screen came out of consumer research
which revealed that people liked the idea of a portable TV.
“This finding ran counter-intuitive to what we expected,’ comments DStv Mobile CEO
Mark Rayner. “We assumed that people wanted to carry a single device – their cell
phones. However, our research showed that people wanted to use their phones for
voice and data only because they were concerned about battery life.
“The Walka has been well received in the market and we expect that the same will be
true of the Walka 7. We wanted to make the Walka 7 a better user experience so it
has a much bigger screen and longer battery life than the Walka, as well as stereo
sound and a choice of four different aspect ratio settings.’
Rayner stresses that DStv Mobile sees a strong case for both handheld TV devices:
the Walka is very portable while the Walka 7 is for subscribers who want a bigger
screen and very long battery life.
He continues: “Because South African sports fans have so much choice on any given
Saturday, it’s useful to have your Walka with you at live games so that you can check
on other sporting events at the same time. We see a lot of DStv Mobile usage in
sports and breaking news.
“A significant portion of Walka users are existing DStv Premium subscribers (who
receive the mobile TV service free) but a sizeable amount of users are totally new
subscribers who just want the mobile service.’
Rayner points out that DStv Mobile has been a long journey for MultiChoice, which
first mooted the idea of a mobile TV service in 2006.
“This was around the time that the European industry organisation Digital Video
Broadcasting (DVB) developed its DVB-H transmission standard for mobile TV,’
explains Rayner. “MultiChoice created a team to investigate the viability of a mobile
TV service. Globally mobile TV did not develop as rapidly as it should have because
there was no standardisation. Europe had DVB-H while America, China, Korea and
Japan each had their own transmission standards.’
The DStv Mobile team rallied hard to launch a service in time for the 2006 FIFA World
Cup but did not receive a licence from regulator ICASA. Undeterred, DStv Mobile
continued its DVB-H trials until ICASA granted the licence in September 2010.
Following a series of regulatory challenges the service was finally launched in
Rayner notes that despite the late start in South Africa, DStv Mobile was able to
launch in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Namibia in 2008.
“Africa is a very important market for us and we’ve just launched a mobile version of
MultiChoice’s low cost service, GOtv, in these countries,’ he says.
The DStv Mobile service originally launched on Nokia handsets because Nokia was the
dominant brand in Africa at the time.
“However, we quickly realised that the choice of mobile phone is a very personal one
for consumers so we couldn’t pin our future on one device. Therefore we launched the
Drifta mobile decoder so that subscribers could access the service on their laptops
“The Drifta evolved from being a side product into a very important strategy on its
own. We’ve now grown the Drifta to reach all the major operating systems through
two other products, the Drifta USB and the iDrifta for Apple devices,’ comments
DStv Mobile’s offering comprises certain channels that are available on the DStv
bouquet, including several SuperSport channels.
According to Rayner the question of specially produced local content for mobile came
up in the days when DStv Mobile was trialing its service.
“We commissioned local content during the trials but it didn’t resonate with our
customers. There was this idea that mobile content had to be short form and specific
to the local environment but our trials and research showed that this wasn’t the case.
We discovered that customers wanted to see the same content that they were used
to on their TV screens at home,’ he explains.
The DStv Mobile business model is currently based on revenue from subscribers and
“At this stage we’re focused on growing our market and enhancing the viewer
experience. Once we’ve grown to a sizeable market then we may introduce adverts on
our channels but these may not be in the same form as on TV.
“Thus far we’re satisfied with our growth and are performing to expectation,’