Africa: GTV Gets $35 Million Boost As It Targets 1 Million Viewers

Investment

Pan African satellite TV operator GTV has received a capitalisation of US$35 million, bringing the total capital invested into the company to almost US$200 million. The company is also getting a US$675 million cheque from mobile operator Vodacom Group, which has agreed to buy its telecommunications business.

GTV founder and managing director Julian McIntyre said these two parallel investment schemes will chart a new course for the pay-TV market in sub-Saharan Africa. McIntyre said the company hopes to reach over 250,000 subscribers by the end of next year from the current 100,000, and one million within three or four years. It also plans to operate in up to 35 countries by the end of 2008.

According to McIntyre, consumer demand for GTV and its services has resulted in his company becoming Africa's fastest growing pay-television service. Africa represents the last great frontier media market in the world, McIntyre said. Recent studies show that less than 2 per cent of sub-Saharan African homes that have television sets 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, out of 2.2 million TV set owners, only 30,000 subscribe to satellite television services.

"We intend to come up with different programming that suits different countries. In Kenya, for instance, we are planning to bring on board religious programmes that have proven a hit. This is a Kenyan phenomenon," he said.

GTV will be investing up to $5 million in Ugandan soccer over the next five years, including the first regular broadcasts of matches in the country's top national league.

GTV's mode of service delivery is direct-to-home, satellite-based services that deliver high quality digital reception across the continent. This delivery platform has substantially reduced the cost and ease of set-up.

Outside South Africa, where the satellite broadcaster MultiChoice has 1.3 million customers, pay TV has primarily been affordable only to a small elite and to international hotels.

MultiChoice has about 450,000 subscribers in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, a region with a population of more than 700 million. Other African pay TV operators have only small national or regional presences. CanalSat Horizons, part of Canal Plus of France, is available in Francophone regions of West Africa.

The East African (Nairobi) 6 October 2008