JOHANNESBURG — Paycaster M-Net is likely to lose its lucrative open-time window next year as a result of a proposed amendment to its license by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.
Terrestrial viewers have had free access to M-Net between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily since its inception 20 years ago, a concession granted as a marketing tool since South Africans were new to pay TV.
Its most popular show, the Afrikaans-language soap “Egoli,” is broadcast during this time, giving M-Net its largest viewership and attracting the bulk of its advertising revenue.
E.tv, the country’s only independent commercial free-to-air channel, has been lobbying Icasa to shut the open window, calling it unfair competition.
Analysts see the move as preparing the broadcasting environment for the division this year of the South African Broadcasting Corp. into public and commercial arms.
Closing the open window would clear the decks for direct competition between SABC’s commercial channel SABC3 and e.tv between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. without the complication of competition from a pay channel.