Former M-Net CEO, Patricia van Rooyen, is preparing for her relocation to Zambia to take up her new position as regional director of Southern Africa for MultiChoice Africa. Michael Bratt had a chat with her to hear more about her plans for expanding the DStv brand on the continent as well as the challenges and opportunities she expects to confront.
Van Rooyen was asked by the company to move to Zambia to take up the new position and she says she accepted “without any hesitation.” She adds, “I couldn’t say no to the job, how could I? It’s such a wonderful job.” She is expected to start in her new position in January 2016. In her new role, Van Rooyen will oversee and co-ordinate the nine markets that make up the Southern Africa division: Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and Swaziland. The position requires a lot of travelling for her as she visits, consults with, supports and advises the general managers and their teams in the various markets.
The main aim during these meetings will be to explore how business can be run more effectively while retaining great customer service. Van Rooyen says that the one thing that definitely needs to be done is that more local content needs to be brought to the markets, especially in the Portuguese territories. In the other ones where local content is already particularly well established Van Rooyen will explore how what they already have can be strengthened and how products can be properly promoted. “The main thing I need to do is understand subscriber behaviour on our different bouquets across the different markets. Why we retain subscribers or lose some,” Van Rooyen explains.
The move is not only new for van Rooyen but also for MultiChoice Africa. In the past their Southern African head of operations was always based in South Africa, but the decision has been made to move the position to Zambia. “When you are running a region you need to be a part of it, feel it and understand the nuances. When you are in South Africa you are influenced by what happens here,” Van Rooyen explains.
Van Rooyen also touched on how mobile and digital will be integrated into her strategy for the Southern African region and what she had to say was quite surprising. She explained that the DStv Now app is already in place, where viewers can get DStv content on their mobile phones. But she adds that mobile will not be too much of a focus for her, as broadband is still so expensive and data usage for videos is so high in the nine markets she will be overseeing. “Good old TV and frequency across the airwaves is still the best way to consume content. It will change but it will be slow,” she says.
Van Rooyen cited several challenges that MultiChoice Africa faces in Southern Africa markets. These include a terrible economic crisis with the Zambian currency the Kwacha named as the most devalued currency last year. Oil prices have crashed in Angola and Zambia has been hit hard by falling copper prices. Other challenges include the drought affecting several of the Southern African nations and distribution and infrastructural challenges, which Van Rooyen says has led the teams to having to think outside the box, forcing them to come up with new ways of doing business.
But the one element that Van Rooyen is looking forward to the most is living and working with the people of Zambia, who she describes as very accepting, friendly and hospitable. She identified Angola as the country that she will be overseeing, that has the most potential for growing the DStv brand, but admits that it is also the country that will require the most work.
Before accepting her new role, van Rooyen was the CEO of M-Net for eight years. She worked in magazines at Media24 for 10 years and before that at the Times Media Group. She says working in magazines is not that different from working in television. “The market segmentation is not that different between TV and magazines. The change for me will be going from pure content to looking at the entire value chain of the business.”
Van Rooyen will be joined on her new African adventure by her husband and her very special companion, a pavement special dog by the name of Twinkle.