From the desk of our CEO
We are an African business, telling uniquely African stories for the people of Africa. Having surpassed a landmark 20m subscribers this year, we are also one of the top-10 linear pay-TV companies globally, outside of China. We are putting Africa on the map, and we are deeply invested in the continent, its future, stories and people.
Chief executive officer
This has certainly been a year like no other, and it is quite remarkable to reflect on how much our business has continued to evolve in the face of so many challenges and disruptions. A few years ago, it would have been hard to believe a scenario where thousands of our employees could effectively and productively work from home, with our call centres fully functional offsite. Yet here we are, living out a new normal, while continuing to deliver exceptional results.
The COVID-19 pandemic, while bringing many challenges to all and great loss to many, taught us more about the art of the possible. Our teams rallied not only to keep the lights on, but to excel, drive innovation and delight our customers: from a SuperSport team who managed to fill its channels with compelling sport programming in the middle of a global halt to live sport, to the filming of whole TV series in COVID-19 production bubbles, to our Rest of Africa business having its strongest festive season growth of all time, to our team in South Africa who launched multiple new products and services, despite several challenges.
We started the year confronted with severe disruptions to our programming schedules, bleak macro-economic forecasts for many of our markets and sharply weaker currencies. In the face of these challenges, we have delivered. We produced a significant 4 567 hours of local content despite production disruptions and travel restrictions across the continent, and grew our subscriber base by 1.4m despite significant consumer pressure. Underpinned by operational excellence and tight cost control and some benefit from deferred sport events costs into the next financial year, we delivered strong financial results despite ongoing currency weakness which had the dual effect of eroding revenue and increasing costs.
Each business unit contributed to the group in different ways. Our South African business, while mature, enjoyed solid mass market growth of 14% this year, which contributed to an overall subscriber base of 8.9m. The segment continues to drive OTT adoption and other innovation, as evidenced by ongoing growth in our Showmax paying subscriber base and the recent slate of new products and services launched.
Although the operating environment in sub-Saharan Africa is not without its challenges, our Rest of Africa business continued to excel operationally, growing its customer base by 8% YoY to reach 11.9m subscribers. It remains core to our long-term growth strategy and is making great progress towards returning to profitability.
Irdeto, a market leader in video entertainment security solutions, provides critical support to our operations and those of many other customers around the world. This year, it gained six new tier-one customers in the media security space, while in connected transport, it expanded its deployment of connected vehicles, with the Hyundai group shipping more than 200 000 vehicles fitted with Irdeto's Keystone digital security solution. Irdeto is making progress in the growing set of markets in connected industries and is an important source of diversified US dollar-based revenue for us.
When it comes to our content strategy, we continue focusing on stepping up our investment in local content as a key differentiator. In so doing, we support the broader video entertainment industry through job creation, backing new producers and honing skills through initiatives like the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF). The uniquely African stories that we tell resonate with our audiences and demand continues to grow.
This year, we increased the number of hours of local content produced by 19%, including 43 local dramas, 29 telenovelas and 18 comedy series. We also completed five co-productions with esteemed global partners and launched dedicated local language channels in two further markets, as well as a pan-African lifestyle channel.
We remain the largest funder of sport in Africa and now broadcast the Ethiopian Premier League and sponsor the PSL Premiership in South Africa, which was rebranded as the DStv Premiership. SuperSport's programming is truly world-class, and in keeping to our promise of offering the world's greatest football, we were able to secure the rights to the EPL and UEFA Champions League for another three years after the current agreements expire, as well as the rights to broadcast the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
|More details of our local and international content and sporting highlights can be found in the content section|
Looking at our broader strategy, I am incredibly pleased with the progress we have made this year in delivering against our strategic priorities. In addition to growing our traditional linear pay-TV, OTT and Irdeto businesses, we announced an array of new technologies, products and services to further expand our world of value and choice for customers. These included a rewards scheme, movie bundle, community or stokvel scheme, sport offering on Showmax, the integration of third-party SVOD services onto our platform and the launch of the Explora Ultra set-top box. The latter won the Stuff magazine TV Gadget of the Year award beating numerous offerings from global technology giants.
These products enable us to build an entertainment ecosystem, to which we intend to continuously add more products and services to expand our offering and keep our customers engaged.
We took another bold step in expanding our ecosystem by acquiring an initial 20% investment in the pan-African sport betting business, BetKing. We expect this investment to bring numerous benefits to our video entertainment business, including improvements in viewer engagement and retention, as well as growth and revenue diversification for the group. We will continue seeking new and innovative opportunities to further our strategic ambitions through partnerships and targeted investment activity.
Our talent remains vital for our success, and we strive to create a workplace where our people feel nurtured, challenged, inspired and valued. I am proud of what we were able to achieve in trying times, and the resilience and flexibility that our employees have shown. We are especially grateful to our essential employees who are displaying loyalty and courage in coming to work daily to serve our business and our customers and have been doing so throughout the pandemic. I am personally grateful to my team of highly capable CEOs, and their executive teams for their strong leadership and valuable contributions to the group.
|Our employees and many of our other stakeholders, including suppliers and customers, were severely impacted by the outbreak. Read about our initiatives to assist them during this time on our external business environment|
Going forward, subject to a stable regulatory environment and the unknown impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue scaling our video entertainment services across the continent, focusing on both traditional linear broadcasting and streaming services. In addition, we plan to further increase our investment in local content and pursue new growth opportunities that will enhance customer experiences and revenue prospects.
We are enjoying good momentum – we are seeing our advertising business recover, we have plans to further enhance our entertainment ecosystem and we look forward to an exceptional slate of local content and a meaningful return of sport as we catch up on the events missed in the past year. We are, however, cognisant of ongoing consumer pressure in what remains an uncertain COVID-19 environment, potential macro-economic volatility as well as the need to generate revenues to successfully absorb content costs related to deferred sport events in the next financial year. We will look to counter any headwinds through tight cost control and by driving operational excellence.
We believe we are well positioned for the future and remain excited about the long-term prospects of the business. We celebrate our 36-year legacy and the many stories we have told and look forward to our future as we continue to enrich the lives of our customers, people and communities.
Chief executive officer