MTN inks deal with music channel Trace


As African telecom players innovate to beat their competitors, South Africa's MTN Group has pulled a first by announcing a brand and content licensing agreement with Trace, an entertainment television channel.

Trace is largely a music video channel that promotes urban contemporary music videos and is available on various cable and satellite pay television platforms.

As Africa's Internet speeds go up and prices come down, courtesy of fiber-optic cables, one of the major challenges facing Africa is a lack of locally relevant and available content to attract more people online.

The deal with Trace will let MTN offer what it has called innovative entertainment services to the fast-growing youth segment within the African mobile market. On Monday MTN launched the offer in Cameroon, and it is due to be rolled out in multiple locations. Launches are planned in Ivory Coast, South Africa and Nigeria in the next few months.

"MTN youth subscribers will benefit from the unique entertainment experience around the Trace brand, including exciting local and international content on entertainment and sports, live events and television," according to a statement issued by the MTN Group.

"Any initiative that works to raise the local content that African people access and consume is most welcome, regardless of whether this content is delivered via traditional TV, mobile phone or the Internet," said Wairagala Wakabi, a researcher at Collaboration on International ICT Policy in Eastern and Southern Africa (CIPESA).

He said many African countries have aspirations for their media, specifically radio and TV, and deliver a bigger proportion of their programming as local content, but due to logistical and capacity problems, these hopes are not translated into reality.

"States, including through their universal access funds, obviously have a big role to play here, but it will be a happy day when MTN, Trace and others leverage on the successes they score within the entertainment sector to also get into innovations that directly impact on the livelihoods of our people in ways entertainment would never," Wakabi said.