Pay-TV companies’ sports ‘truce’ bumps up packages

The Maltese pay-TV segment has registered a rise in subscriptions, by almost 10,000 year-on-year, with the observed jump attributed to the TSN Sports content

The Maltese pay-TV segment has registered a rise in subscriptions, by almost 10,000 year-on-year, with the observed jump attributed to the TSN Sports content – the channel where both Go and Melita pooled resources to secure sporting TV rights – launched in June 2018.

The channel was crucial to the two competitors to stop a pricing battle that split their audiences and football fans between packages offering different football television channels.

The latest data from the Malta Communications Authority shows that pay-TV subscriptions have spelt varying fortunes for providers: while growing by almost 12% since 2014 to 165,289 subscriptions in 2018, these TV packages face competition from illegal streaming services, satellite subscriptions, and other internet-based television and streaming services.

Melita’s cable subscription remains strong, growing by 31.5% over 2014 to 95,599 subscriptions, but GO’s DTTV (digital terrestrial TV) halved to 22,000 subscriptions from 2014. Yet both companies offer IPTV packages which have grown exponentially by 148% to 47,700 subscriptions.

Digital pay-TV subscriptions as part of a bundle offer, together with internet and mobile and fixed telephony, has also kept on growing, from 76,000 subscriptions to 119,000 last year: a 49% growth. Bundled subscriptions now form 72% of total digital Pay-tv subscriptions.

Hanging on the telephone

Maltese mobile telephony users are sending 50% fewer SMS messages than they were in 2014, as the proliferation of free and versatile messaging services like WhatsApp become major communication channels.

Data released by the Malta Communications Authority for the past years pay witness to the phenomenal growth of mobile telephony and broadband: with over 615,000 mobile phone subscriptions, growing by 12% over 2014, and over 191,000 fixed broadband subscriptions, up by 26.6% over 2014.

The information also shows that while far fewer SMSes are being sent – 278 million every year, compared to 509 million back in 2014 – people are spending more time talking on their phone, although making fewer calls.

While messaging services like WhatsApp, which allows for faster transmission of audio and images over the phone, is arguably influencing communication, Maltese users are making less calls but also benefiting from competitive pricing by making longer calls.

So, in 2019, there were 470 million outgoing mobile phone calls compared to 517 million in 2014 – a drop of 9.1%. But outgoing traffic minutes grew from 719 million to 932 million, a leap of almost 30%.

Perhaps the obvious sign of better pricing and faster data speeds is shown in the growth of mobile data volumes: between 2014 and 2018, domestic mobile data grew from 1.74 million megabytes, to 6.2 million megabytes, or 256%.

Another sign of better pricing benefits has been the removal of roaming charges through a concerted effort of the European Parliament: Maltese users’ roaming activity grew by 215% to 211 million outbound minutes.

Fixed broadband subscriptions have also grown exponentially over the past five years, growing by 26.6% to over 191,800 subscriptions.

Broadband subscriptions are mainly made up of cable subscriptions, namely offered by Melita, with 92,550 subscriptions; followed by DSL subscriptions offered by GO at 67,500; FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) subscriptions offered by all companies, at 21,500; and fixed wireless subscriptions growing by 300% to 10,226 over the past four years.

As expected, the dominance of internet communication also translates into a small decrease for traditional postal mail.

Between 2014 and 2018, postal mail volumes decreased by 3.5% from 40 million to 37 million items: the main decrease was in letter post and bulk mail, but parcel mail – a sign of increased domestic purchases from abroad, again a direct effect of internet mail – grew by 105%, from 409,000 items to over one million items in 2018.

Item 2014 2018 % change
Mobile phone 546,229 615,843 12.7%
Outgoing voice calls 517.6m 470.3m -9.1%
Outgoing SMSes 509.2m 278.2m -45.5%
Mobile date volume 1,743m MB 6,205m MB 256%
Fixed Broadbrand 151,557 191,833 26.6%
Pay-TV subscriptions 147,880 165,289 11.8%
Post mail volume 40m 36.9m -3.5%