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South African paybox closes before it opens

Super 5, due to bow in September, has laid off staffers

JOHANNESBURG — A rival to South Africa’s largest pay TV platform looks set to fold this month, just weeks before it was due to make its long-overdue debut.

Super 5 Media, once heralded as the most promising competitor to MultiChoice’s DStv platform, has reportedly fired its remaining employees amid growing signs of a financial crisis.

Last week, Super 5 learned it was facing a 25 million rand ($3.3 million) liquidation claim from the international investment advisory company Rothschild, one of its biggest creditors.

Super 5 has delayed the launch of its much-hyped pay TV service for months. After missing its June deadline, the company announced it would debut in September. Instead, wary execs seem to have pulled the plug — some 40 staffers who arrived at the company’s offices on Tuesday received termination notices.

The company was widely considered to be the most promising newcomer to South Africa’s pay TV scene after unveiling a $930 million business plan to compete with DStv across the African continent.

But Super 5 appeared to unravel after Telkom Media sold the company to Shenzhen Media last year.

Super 5 execs could not be reached for comment.

Despite the company’s collapse, 2010 has been a banner year for South Africa’s growing pay TV market. In May, On Demand Media launched its TopTV platform, making it the first company to break MultiChoice’s stranglehold.

The service has been a hit with consumers. Last week, On Demand Media announced it had sold more than 120,000 decoders since the platform launched.

Also debuting this year, Christian-based Walking on Water Television (WowTV) recently announced its own plans to unveil two pay TV bouquets. The company said it would emphasize family-friendly programming, though critics say WowTV’s religious focus would undermine its broader appeal.

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