How Internet killed the Cable TV star (and more)

49% of the population says it is not satisfied with local TV options while 31.2% doesn’t watch TV

The budding Netflix service, introduced to Malta only last year, has over 28,000 viewers
The budding Netflix service, introduced to Malta only last year, has over 28,000 viewers

There’s a digital revolution in the air.

In 2016, the Malta Communications Authority recorded a dent in paid TV subscriptions, a 1.1% drop in a strong market that today has over 147,000 subscribers.

The drops were almost entirely across the board. The robust Melita, at over 71,000 cable subscriptions, fell by just 1%, but GO’s digital terrestrial TV (DTTV) – which is transmitted by aerial – fell by 11%. A corresponding increase however came with GO’s internet-protocol TV service (IPTV), which jumped by 32% to 25,000 subscriptions, as well as a 7% increase in pay-TV packages, enjoyed by at least 86,000 television subscribers from both GO and Melita.

But the numbers mask the fast ascendance of so many digital entertainment alternatives made possible by faster broadband speeds. Results from the Broadcasting Authority’s Audience Assessment in February showed that 49% of the population are using TV services other than paid subscriptions or free to air transmissions.

It’s no secret that the shift away from subscription TV packages is largely the effect of TV services provided by off-market satellite subscriptions, the Kodi streaming programme hardwired into so called ‘Android’ boxes, and streaming services like Netflix now also available on Smart TVs.

In 2012, the average revenue per TV subscriber was over €171. Today, average revenue has fallen to €164 per user.

The BA’s audience survey extrapolated that over 338,000 – 90% of the island – owns a paid subscription. When compared to the MCA’s precise statistics obtained from service providers, this translates to at least two users per paid TV subscription.

The rest of the surveys points to a new reality: over 63,000 say they use Android boxes, 53,000 use laptops and mobile phones to stream video, almost 40,000 watch satellite TV, and the budding Netflix service, introduced to Malta only last year, has over 28,000 viewers. 

The use of multiple services is highest among those aged 16-30, the more digitally connected part of the population.

The BA’s survey, carried out by the National Statistics Office among 1,240 respondents, suggests that ‘users’ outweigh the actual number of paid subscriptions.

But it shows that even with the burgeoning spending power of the 16-30 age group, the preference is to avail themselves of multiple TV services, evidenced by the growth of broadband users – over 171,000 paid subscriptions according to the MCA (78% of which come as part of a GO and Melita package), but with a growing average revenue of €199 per user.

It is a reality that the MCA is aware of, in the past having told MaltaToday that “the market for content was facing both legal and illegal competition, primarily from over-the-top online sources.”

Indeed, the BA survey suggests fewer are even using their paid TV subscriptions to actually watch television.

According to the results, 31.2% of the population does not watch television. Of the 68.3% that do, 38.64% named TVM as one of the stations they had watched in the last 24 hours. The second most popular TV station was ONE, followed by NET TV. And that corresponds to the finding that news is the most popular ‘genre’, with 65% of respondents saying they liked to watch local or foreign news programmes, compared with 42.2% who said they enjoyed local drama and 29.3% who followed discussion and current affair programmes.