Johannesburg – After the success of its initial gamble in launching the country’s first free-to-air TV channel e.tv, which has paid off handsomely over the years, Hosken Consolidated Investment (HCI) is taking yet another gamble by launching a 24-hour news channel.

But this time the channel will be carried by an established pay television provider: MultiChoice. .

Yesterday HCI posted a 52 percent jump in full-year profit attributable to equity shareholders to R871.8 million. .

However, industry experts said the company had set aside about R120 million for the new channel. HCI owns 63 percent in Sabido, which in turn owns e.tv and e.sat – formed about two years ago to bid for a pay television licence..

Vasili Vass, the head of publicity at e.tv, said the figure was incorrect but would not reveal the costs for setting up the channel because they were confidential. The eNews channel will employ 175 people..

To be on the DStv platform, e.sat – the HCI subsidiary that will house the eNews channel – will get access to MultiChoice’s 1.4 million subscribers from the first day..

Like other broadcasters, it is expected to make money out of advertising, which is slowing down due to high interest rates and sponsorships. Depending on their agreement, e.sat will either pay MultiChoice a fee to be on its platform or Multichoice will pay e.sat for its content. e.sat would not divulge the information, as the deal was confidential..

These platform fees could cost up to R3 million a year, according to an industry player. e.sat initially planned to compete with MultiChoice, but pulled out after it won the licence because the market was too small to accommodate more than two players..

The eNews channel would provide South African, regional and international news, including live reports, sport, weather, entertainment and financial information, said Vass..

HCI’s media assets, including Gauteng-based YFM and Cape Town Film Studios, earned R1.2 billion and posted a headline profit of R174 million, up from R155 million in the year to March last year. .

Profit before tax was R459.7 million from R346.9 million in the previous period. HCI bought a stake in a Botswana-based free-to-air TV station..

HCI’s other assets are in the casino, hotels, financial services, transport, industrial and food and beverages industries.

HCI’s casino and gaming stake, which includes 34 percent in Tsogo Sun Holdings, reported a R1.3 billion in profit before tax from R570 million the previous period. Headline profit for the division was R273.9 million, up from R128.2 million.

Source: Business Report – Thabiso Mochiko