Kenya: Entry of GTV forces DStv to announce cheaper Family bouquet

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MultiChoice Kenya announced a new DStv Family Bouquet for Ksh1,350 ($19) a month, starting May 25, hardly a month after GTV - a European company - announced it will launch family entertainment programmes in July. The move by MultiChoice is no doubt a reaction to GTV's entry, although general manager Richard Tembedza said it resulted from research by the firm that sought to provide a package that balances desire with affordability."

He further said that DStv Family is a direct response to the need of DStv lovers for a special package that caters to the home entertainment needs of the family at a reduced rate. "There's still the same excitement and entertainment that DStv delivers, now at a reduced rate in a new package, specifically created for families," said Mr Tembedza.

The DStv Family package will offer 25 channels - AfricaMagic, Action X, Boomerang, Reality TV, Fashion TV, Mindset Learn, Play Jam, RAI International, CCTV-E&F (China's national TV), TV 5 Afrique, RTP, National Geographic, SuperSport Active, SuperSport Select, SuperSport 4, Channel O, Audio Channel, the Christian channels Rhema and TBN; and the news channels BBC, CNBC, Al Jazeera and SABC Africa and local channels NTV and KBC. However missing on the list are the up-market channels Movie Magic 1 and 2; Hallmark, M-Net Movies 1 and 2, M-net, M-net Series, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, History Channel, Mtv and MTV Base among other.

During the announcement of its entry into Kenya's pay-TV market, GTV said, "When it comes to television, all too often Africans have been faced with limited choice, low quality and poor value for money. But that is about to change." The firm said it was planning to unleash an entirely different approach to satellite-based pay-TV, which will revolutionise lifestyles for the whole family. DStv's Family Bouquet will open a price war with GTV, which is yet to disclose its subscription price.

"It will be much cheaper than what is available," is all the company could say. With this, the stage is set for gruelling competition given that GTV's initial focus - an innovative model that champions African consumer demand, which would have redefined the pay-TV market, and home entertainment - has been encroached. The significant drop in entry-level pricing is also a major change for DStv, which until now has remained out of reach for the majority of viewers.

The soon to be rival channels seem to be reading from the same script, promising the same content. GTV viewers will have access to major international channels as well as GTV's own channels created especially to satisfy local tastes. Programming will include a diverse range of news, sports, movies, popular series, music, and religious content. Among GTV's own channels will be G Prime, an entertainment and movie channel, and G Sports featuring live international and African sports including top flight European football.

But on the ground, GTV's entry might not be good news for entertainment venues that have been baiting customers with DStv entertainment, because of the increased affordability. Africa represents the least penetrated pay-TV region in the world. Less than one per cent of television-owning households in sub-Saharan Africa currently subscribe to pay-TV services, compared with 15 per cent in Eastern Europe, 36 per cent in Western Europe and 93 per cent in North America.

In Kenya, of the 2.2 million households with televisions, only 23,100 subscribe to a satellite service. Julian McIntyre, founder of GTV said providing low cost pay TV will go a long way in ensuring quality content is accessible to many rather than a select few, as is the prevailing situation. According to the African Media Development Initiative: Kenya Report, 2007, growth in Kenya's TV sector has been slight in the past five year's. Satellite subscriber numbers have not shown any significant growth, with the monthly subscription cost remaining beyond the means of most viewers. TV stations in Kenya face financial problems, low quality production and presentation and generally lack local content.

(East African (Nairobi), 5 June 2007)