Airtime, electricity and now television. What do these three things have in common? Well, they can all be enjoyed on a pre-paid basis.

This week, the satellite broadcasting company, TopTV, announced they would now be offering a service called TopTV Prepaid for all those television lovers who don’t always have the money to pay for a fixed subscription.

This was announced at Maponya Mall in Soweto where a presentation in the cinema was followed by a lunch of traditional African food at The Tavern, inside the mall.

It was funny to listen to some of the white journalists almost whisper to whomever was listening that they “never thought I would come to Soweto”. Or that this mall is “actually” quite nice. But what was not so funny was the late start to the event, as well as the technical glitches that kicked off the presentation in the cinema.

That aside, though, it must be said that TopTV really outdid themselves this time around.

As the interim chief operating officer of TopTV, Kgomotso Lekola, said, statistics have shown that as many as 40 percent of South African adults don’t use a bank but alternative means to save and make transactions.

Vive le mattress. Anyway, Lekola said: “If we are to build solutions that are sensitive to the realities of South Africa then an innovation such as this is non-negotiable.”

So what exactly is this innovation? Well, from now on, existing TopTV subscribers can go to any Pep Store or one of the Blue Label chains and purchase a TopTV Prepaid voucher that has a unique pin, just as the electricity and airtime vouchers do. Then, with their smartcard number handy, the customer will have to dial *120* TOPTV* and wait for the instructions.

Within a matter of minutes, and without even using their own cellphone – much to the amusement of the audience, someone said the TopTV customer could borrow a next- door neighbour’s phone – the customer will have activated their TopTV package for 30 days.

The channel says the roll-out plan includes eventually having the voucher available at about 100 000 retailers across SA, but for now, the two mentioned above are the sure bets.

What exactly does one get to choose from when it comes to the packages? As you may know, TopTV offers four packages that are priced from R99 and increase in price when more channels are added.

There will only be two packages on offer for TopTV Prepaid customers. They are the Variety Package at R109 and the Ultimate Package that is priced at R279.

You may notice that there is a R10 increase in price compared to the normal subscription fees. This is because of retail administration fees, we were told.

In addition to being able to buy the TopTV Prepaid voucher whenever you have cash, you can also upgrade at any time of the month. Lekola said “the balance of the remaining days in your [Variety] package will be banked and you can immediately start watching the Ultimate Package at any point during those 30 days”.

TopTV’s interim CEO, Eddie Mbalo, said a dedicated team had been working on this South African first (although it has already been tried and tested in places like India) for six months to ensure customers get “choice and unlimited access to entertainment”.

Mbalo also briefly addressed the controversial Nando’s advert that was flighted by TopTV and said it was a “no-brainer” that the broadcaster would flight it and a mere delay in contract matters meant they couldn’t flight the ad as soon as they had wanted to.

“It had nothing to do with the ASA ruling, which allowed the ad to flight in the end, with no restrictions.”

While only saying that in the upcoming months, the company will announce exciting news about the line-up and changes on channels, for now, we’re left to watch the TV shows we currently have, including a new season of ZA News.

As Tim Modise of ZA News said about TopTV Prepaid: “It’s like buying electricity, only without the random blackouts and load-shedding.”

• Visit a Pep Store or go to for more information.