Sweden’s Pay TV operator NGB pulls out of Africa for other markets, selling companies in Kenya and Uganda

Top Story

It’s official. The Swedish-owned DTT Pay TV operator NGB which runs the Smart TV brand seems to have quietly slipped out of Africa, having offloaded off its three existing operations. Russell Southwood rakes over the still glowing embers from this week’s news.

“The Sixth Swedish Pension Fund (AP6), investors in NGB Africa have decided to refocus their Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) investment plan from Africa," NGB said in a statement on Friday, 5 August 2011.

When interviewed by us about their investors commitment to the continent in May 2010 it said that its main investor was a Swedish pension fund and this gave it an advantage in terms of timetable and return:”They will take a 5 year rather than a 1 year view. We’re here to create a sustainable business. We’re hiring local people and operating where we set up out of local offices. We’re not in a hurry. It will happen in Africa and it will be huge. We think that we can grab a huge share.”

Next Generation Broadcasting Kenya Ltd is now wholly Kenyan owned under a new firm known as Transmex Kenya Ltd whose chairman is Mohammed Nyaoga, a Nairobi-based lawyer.

However, Next Generation Broadcasting Kenya Ltd CEO Daniel Kagwe said,"We have not closed, Smart TV is in business and the company is now Kenyan owned. The Swedish investors left to concentrate in other markets such as China and South America." According to a report in The Nation, sources said it found Kenya a 'frustrating business environment'.

NGB had been taken to Court by six Free To Air operators who were unhappy that it was using their programmes as part of its DTT bouquet. They felt that NGB should have sought permission and paid a fee. Later the court ruled that there was no irregularity in the process and gave NGB a go-ahead to continue with operations. It had partnered with state broadcaster KBC to offer its pay TV channels.

CEO of Smart TV Uganda, Martin Abuya said the transfer of NGB's shares to local company Digital Broadcasting is good news because it will give the local company a chance to improve what has already been accomplished. "This is good for Ugandan producers because on top of what we already have, we now have enough space for local content and are reaching new areas," Abuya said.

NGB's exit from Uganda came hardly a week after NGB Uganda commissioned two 2 kilowatt transmitters to boost Smart TV's signal. "Our signal can now be accessed within a radius of over 80km." The transmitters are also designed to improve the station's quality of pictures and carry more channels besides the increase on the area of coverage. One of the two transmitters is dedicated to carry all free to air stations in Uganda, while the second will deliver international channels, according to Abuya.

In Ghana, it transferred its business to local operator Skyy TV which already has a licence to operate DTT, after the regulator NCC forced it and its local partner state broadcaster GBC from broadcasting.

It has been outgunned on its strategy of working with local incumbent state broadcasters as a way into the market by China’s Star Times which seems to have tied up more of these arrangements and got more subscribers, even though its bouquet was perhaps less impressive.

The degree of competition in the Pay TV market is perhaps best illustrated by the roll call of providers in Uganda, by no means one of the largest markets. In addition to the locally owned NGB company, there are now: Wananchi’s Zuku, MultiChoice Uganda (DStv), Star DTV (StarTimes), Pearl Digital Tv, MoTv, and Kampala Siti Cable. Nevertheless, across the continent DStv remains the one to beat.

Video clips that might interest you on Balancing Act’s Web TV channel

What Kenyans watch on TV: Joe Otin, Media Research and Monitoring Manager, Synovate
Joe Otin, Media Research and Monitoring Director, Synovate on the Portable People Meter
Wachira Waruru, CEO, Royal Media on using local content to become No 1
Farah Chaudhry, Hd of Marketing, A24 Media on the launch of Africa: What's Your Story?

Douglas Namale, Kibera News Network on community news gathering and online TV

Patrick Shomba, CEO, Ghetto Films on using film as an educational tool
Dayo Ogunyemi, CEO, Cinemart on the launch of a new mass market cinema chain

Shalini Gidoomal on the FilmAid Film Festival, Nairobi

Shuaib Nda Adama, Executive Director, NTA on the digital broadcast transition in Nigeria

Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on:

23 – 24 August 2011- The Mobile Entertainment Africa conference

For those wanting to understand how mobile phones have become the new media for African broadcast, the upcoming Mobile Entertainment Africa conference is a good opportunity to find out.

From the team behind the Mobile Web in Africa series of events comes Mobile Entertainment Africa.  The event will take place August 23rd to 24th at the 5 star One&Only Resort Hotel in Cape Town and will give attendees the opportunity to gain and exchange knowledge and expertise regarding maximising the entertainment opportunity on handheld devices in Africa.

The conference will utilise the acclaimed Interactive Roundtable Seating Format, which creates superb levels of interaction, discussions and enhances attendees’ on the day experience and conference outputs.

Key contributors include Emma Kaye (Bozza), Aryan Kaganof (Director of SMS Sugar Man), Mark Rayner (DStv Mobile), Candice Goodman (Mobitainment), Musa Kalenga (IHOP World), Richard Morgan-Grenville (Supa Strikas), Nevo Hadas, (/dev/null), Jon Hoelher (Starfish Mobile), Brett Loubser (Samsung), Fela Oke (Goldrush Entertainment), Wesley Lynch (Realmdigital), Russell Southwood (Balancing Act), Isis Nyong’o (InMobi), Toby Shapshak (Stuff Magazine), Karen Liebenberg (Digital Music Specialist), Justin Spratt (Quirk), Mark Kaigwa (Afrinnovator), Vincent Maher (Motribe), Honey Onile-Ere (Independent Entertainment Professional), Tim Bishop (Prezence) and Obi Asika (Storm360).

For more information on Mobile Entertainment Africa, including the latest news and updates, visit here:  or send an email to info@allamber.co.uk.  Ticket subsidies are available for mobile start-ups and developers.

Venue: “One&Only Resort Hotel”, Cape Town, South Africa
From the team behind the Mobile Web in Africa series of events comes Mobile Entertainment Africa.  The event will give attendees the opportunity to gain and exchange knowledge and expertise regarding maximising the entertainment opportunity on handheld devices in Africa.
For more visit the website here: