Kenya: Fight for Pay Television Market Down to the Wire

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Competition in the Pay-TV market is getting stiffer with entry of new players breaking the price barriers that have hindered mass consumers from accessing premium programming.

Coming from a regime of one dominant player whose subscribers were seen as well-off, consumers are now getting spoilt for choice, with not only variety, but also much lower pricing. Just this year, Remember TV, a Dubai-based satellite and terrestrial receiver's manufacturer, launched MyTV, targeting the mass market in Kenya.
Cable TV Zuku, owned by the Wananchi Group, has in the recent moths reviewed its packages offering it at Sh999.

Multichoice's DStv, the dominant player in the pay-TV market, has in the last month reviewed its products to attract more subscribers. It cut its premium access prices to Sh5,000 per month and introduced a package for Sh830.

Public broadcaster KBC in partnership with Swedish firm, NGB (Next Generation Broadcasting), last week launched a new digital Pay-TV service with a monthly subscription of Sh990.

Broadcasting under the public broadcaster's subsidiary, Signet, the new channel trading under the brand name Smart TV will televise under the DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) platform aiming to fight out for the much sought mass market.

The multiple players are bringing positive changes in the market in a move likely to rapidly increase subscription rates.

"Many customers have, until now, wished to have world class pay-TV content, but it has been out of reach of the average Kenyan family by being prohibitive expensive," says Mr Daniel Kagwe, the CEO NGB Africa.

He says the penetration of Pay-TV in Africa is just about 0.1 per cent because of the high cost. NGB is targeting about 100,000 subscribers by mid next year.

MultiChoice Kenya General Manager Stephen Isaboke said reduction in the cost of decoders coupled with differently priced bouquets are expanding subscription. He said this was a gift to customers to mark 15 years in the market rather than a response to new entrants.

"In spite of the competition, we will continue to offer more programming at attractive rates as we strive to change the perception that pay-TV is a preserve of the rich," said Mr Isaboke.

According to Dr Bitange Ndemo, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication, competition is heating up among broadcasters and he predicts there will be over 600 channels in Kenya by end of next year.

"By mid 2011 the entire infrastructure necessary for full conversion to digital television will be finished," said Dr Ndemo. He says the platform will provide an open playing field for pay-TV providers to offer a wider variety at a much lower cost.