Ethiopia’s liberalized broadcast market under pressure – audiences increase with Covid-19 but advertising down and there will be more casualties

18 June 2020

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Ethiopia has put in place a relatively light touch set of emergency responses to Covid-19, including banning public events and closing schools. UNECA estimates that the impact of the virus will shave 2.9% of the country’s economic growth in 2020. Russell Southwood looks at the latest market research data to try and work out what’s going on.

Ethiopia liberalized its broadcast sector in 2019. There are now nearly 20 local channels, most delivered by satellite, which is the dominant mode of delivery. Three channels – FANA, Walta and ETV have all picked up reach and market share over the last two months.

The impact of Covid-19 has been behind some of this audience shift. For example, FANA, which has increased its reach over the past 2 months, decided to use its channel for religious worship during the fasting season as the Government has closed churches as part of the Covid-19 lockdown.

But for all the increased audience share, the economic impact of Covid-19 has not been kind to the new stations. One of them – JTV – has closed and there are rumors that at least two others will go off air.

As one industry source told me:”It’s like a domino effect and the broadcast market will be affected big time. Advertising is the only way to make money.” One source of advertising has been the local brewing companies but on 10 April the Government banned alcoholic beverage advertising for health reasons.

In the medium term, the liberalization of the telecoms market will create two new mobile operators. Elsewhere in Africa, mobile competition has meant that these operators are usually among the top 5 advertising spenders and a significant part of this spend is made on TV. But in the meantime the economy is under pressure and advertising spend will be cut to respond to this pressure.

According to the April 2020 market research survey from Waas International, almost all channels grew their audience share because of the thirst for news about Covid-19. Over the last three months EBS continues to dominate taking between 69% to 72% of TV viewership over the last 3 months. Fana TV has gone from 50% to 63% and state-run ETV News from 16% to 27%.

EBS does well across the younger age groups but Fana TV leads among those who are 40+ years old and EBS leads across all social classes exception social category E where Fana TV leads. EBS does better among female viewers and Fana TV among male viewers.

Out of the 17 TV channels that have sufficient audiences to register, 11 of them had below 10% TV viewership in the last 4 weeks. And of the six leaders in the pack JTV (which has closed) had only 13%.