In his first public speech as new CEO of eMedia Investments, Khalik Sherrif says e.tv's rebranded and fast-growing free-to-air digital satellite TV service, Openview, is moving to the "main house", shedding its image as a TV service just for domestic workers and granny.
In a fiery and aspirational public speech at the exclusive black tie launch event of Openview's new TV commercial, Khalik Sherrif who took over as new eMedia CEO since the beginning of this month, weighed in on Openview's growth, future prospects and ambitions, and the platform's role in South Africa switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT) - a process known as digital migration.
The experienced veteran TV executive who has been with eMedia for over 15 years, started with an anecdote of how e.tv that in October celebrated two decades of broadcasting in the country, helped to change and shape the South African television landscape.
"When e.tv started, nobody gave us a chance. Twenty years ago they said, 'What do those guys know about TV? Who are they? They are not going to last?' Twenty years later we are still here and we are growing because we dared to be different over all those years."
"When all of you grew up watching the TV news at 20:00 on the SABC, there came these little fellas and they said 'South Africa, stop. Don't watch your news at 20:00 anymore, watch your news at 19:00. And we moved the whole nation."
"When we put our eNews at 19:00 so many years ago, everybody else put the news at 19:00. Do you know why they did that? Because we said 'Watch the news on e.tv at 19:00 because by 20:00 it's history' and they came along to join us at 19:00."
About digital terrestrial TV migration - the switch from analogue to digital TV in South Africa, Khalik Sherrif said "8 million South African TV households have already been migrated - 6.5 million on DStv and 1.5 million on Openview."
"South Africa has 14 million TV households which means that another 5.5 million TV households still need to be migrated."
"We had a meeting with the department of communications, saying 'We will help you to get to the other 5.5 million'. The department of communications will give R400 per household that can't afford to buy a set-top-box (STB), and they will go out to the market, and they will buy a box."
"The department of communications has 500 000 more STB to sell and they're not manufacturing any more. They will buy a box and they will buy Openview. Why? Because for the first time in the South African landscape there is world-class television in high definition (HD), for free," said Khalik Sherrif.
"People in South Africa will buy a STB at any of the retailers for about R400 and will then have world-class television - 20 channels on Openview at the moment; all of the SABC - SABC1, SABC2, SABC3, and all of e.tv - and e.tv isn't just one channel any more."
"There is eMovies, there is eExtra, eReality, there's OpenNews, there's Star Life, there are plenty of them," said Khalik Sherrif , "with Openview growing at 30 000 to 35 000 box activations per month."
Openview: Transitioning from the outbuilding to the main house
"We started Openview on this premise: When the government was pushing digital television to us, the little fellas in Hyde Park realised the following - that we need to own some property in the TV space," said Khalik Sherrif.
"The SABC is the public broadcaster. MultiChoice has their property in Randburg which is the DStv decoder. What do we do? If MultiChoice is fed up of us one day and kicks us out, where do we take our channels? If we maybe don't like the [government-supplied] DTT [STB] performance because it's inferior and standard definition and not high definition, what do we do?"
"So we decided 5 years ago, let's launch our own little thing. We started it with OpenView HD, and now it's Openview. Let me tell you, when we started it, we made some mistakes. We made some mistakes," said Khalik Sherrif.
"And the mistake we made is that we positioned it for the outbuilding. We didn't think about it really. People were buying it for the outside house. If it was not for the helpers, it was for granny. Today you are witnessing the transition of Openview from the outbuilding to the main house - that's where we belong," said Khalif Sherrif.
"Mark my words: Openview is going to be the biggest thing in South African television. Why do I so confidently say this? Because throughout the world, traditional pay-TV is declining. Free-to-air television viewing is increasing."
"If you visit the United Kingdom, you'll know that the most popular medium of receiving television is Freeview - not Sky, not BT. Freeview. Why is this so?"
"While a lot of people are lucky enough to be able to afford pay-TV, they're not watching it because they're watching Netflix. We're streaming this; we're getting Amazon Prime Video. So you're viewership of traditional pay-TV is declining and you're viewership of Netflix is increasing."
"And as that happens, people are coming to the realisation of 'What am I really paying them for? I'm not watching them anymore?' And when you seize to pay them, when you stop paying for television, you know what will happen? You won't throw away your TV set because your lounge suite has to face somewhere," said Khalik Sherrif.
"The TV set belongs in the lounge and when you stop paying for TV and your TV set is not receiving pay-TV anymore, your TV set will receive something else - it will receive Netflix, it will receive Amazon, it will receive Google. It will receive Apple. It will receive Facebook."
"But you will also need to know the local news, you will also need to catch up with the local TV soapies, you will also need to know the local gossip, so you will have Openview. Don't say to anybody I didn't tell you," Khalik Sherriff concluded.