JOHANNESBURG: The number of pay-TV subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to almost double over the next five years, with the figures having been given a boost during 2016 as the leading operators were drawn into a price war.

A study by Digital TV Research said that there were a total of 19.47m pay-TV subscribers in 35 countries at the end of 2016. This figure is set to rise to 22.4m in 2017 and to 36.72m by 2022, Rapid TV News reported.

Most of these, 12.14m, currently subscribe to satellite TV services, while roughly half that number choose pay digital terrestrial television (DTT) services.

The study noted that MultiChoice, the South African operator of the DStv and GOtv platforms, was the clear leader in the category, but said that StarTimes, the Chinese-owned media group with subsidiaries in 30 African countries, was gaining ground after disrupting the sector "with keen pricing during 2016".

"With a limited number of digital terrestrial television (DTT) licences on offer, StarTimes is focusing more on its satellite TV operations [including StarSat], which is disrupting the sector," said Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research.

"StarSat is much cheaper than DStv and Canal Plus and not that much more expensive than pay DTT," he added.

MultiChoice had 11.6m subscribers across its satellite TV platform DStv and digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform GOtv by the end of 2016. That compared with 4.2m for StarTimes and 2.3m for Vivendi and its Canal Plus satellite TV platform and Easy TV.

The dominance of satellite TV is set to diminish in future, as DTT subscriber numbers rise to 15.84m in 2022, not much less than satellite's predicted total of 18.36m.

In monetary terms, however, the difference will be more stark, as the study forecast that satellite would still account for 78% of pay-TV revenues of $6.6bn in 2022, down from 87% today.

South Africa and Nigeria are the two main markets, with 6.39m and 4.46m subscribers respectively in 2016, rising to 9.14m and 8.45m in 2022. These two countries will also contribute nearly half the region's pay TV revenues in that year.

Data sourced from Rapid TV News; additional content by Warc staff