My TV looks set to provide a regional challenge in the African Pay TV market

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With the launch of ODM’s Top-TV days away, competition in the Pay TV market in South Africa is set to become more intense as it takes on DStv in its largest market. But below the radar there are several regional challengers squaring up to them in key Sub-Saharan markets. My TV has enough subscribers in Nigeria to lay claim to being a contender. Russell Southwood talked to their CEO Bhajat Mirza about what the company’s got planned.

My TV is owned by Strong Technologies llc based in Dubai but which started out as a Japanese company based in Yokohama. It builds antenna and receivers as well as operating Pay TV operations. Currently, over 5 million households, in the Middle East alone, are equipped with a Strong branded product. In the past, it has supplied both DStv and Canal Plus in Africa. So like the Chinese-owned Star TV, which started in Rwanda, it is an equipment vendor that has decided to go out and expand its market through supplying its own Pay TV bouquets,

My TV “soft launched” in mid 2006 but had its full public launch in 2007. According to CEO Bhajat Mirza:”From day one, the main focus has been Nigeria but also the other Anglophone countries in West Africa. My TV is licensed in Nigeria.” It is currently present in Nigeria (which has 90% of its subscribers), Ghana, Kenya and Zambia.

Its DTH signal is carried on Intelsat 10 and this covers mainly Sub-Saharan Africa. It has gone over to using MPEG4 to improve use of capacity and customers need a Strong-approved DTH set-top box.

Its bouquet has 19 channels aimed at offering “affordable entertainment to the Nigerian family and the African family at large, mainly in English language.” It aims to offer something for everyone including local and regional material, female-oriented content and sports. Channels include MyTVAfrica (Nollywood, African soaps and Telenovelas) AIT, NTA, Nat Geo Adventure, Entertainment TV, Fox Entertainment, Fine Living Network, Setanta Africa, Eurosport News, Trace Tropical, Baby TV, Al Jazeera and BBC World.

It has recently stopped supplying the MGM film channel but will be replacing it with a new channel of its own creation, MyTV Africa More. This will be material drawn together for a variety of sources and include telenovelas, wildlife, teen programs, family entertainment, action movies, magazines, reality shows and late night programmes.

It offers a single standard bouquet with all 19 channels for N2,500 (US$16.44) a month, a price that is considerably cheaper than the higher end bouquets in the market. According to Mirza:”Users are attracted by the variety of content and its relevance so its attraction is a combination of accessibility and affordability.”

Is it hurt by not having the English Premier League (which is on its local Nigerian competitor HiTV)?:”People who subscribe to My TV are average families so we’re not focused on sports rights. But we do provide three channels: Setanta Africa, Arsenal TV and Eurosport News.”

Although Mirza is reluctant to give subscriber numbers, he says that subscribers have doubled since last year:”A lot of work has been done on enlarging channels within the package and investing in local channels plus a lot of focused marketing activity with seasonal promotions.” He believes that the total number of subscribers in Nigeria using DTH is less than a million:”The levels of piracy are high as across all of Africa but there have been serious efforts by the regulatory authority to address the issue.”

The three main players in the market are DStv, HiTV and My TV. Multimesh will re-launch this year and may become an additional serious player. Is he worried by new competition?:”This business has room for more players. It should welcome serious and professional players as there is space for all.”

So although Nigeria is My TV’s “immediate focus”, it wants to expand across the continent:”We have resellers in some of the markets and basically we want to grow the business. DTH is a practical and affordable solution.”