Pay TV battle turns hot

Published on 07/12/2008

By Gilbert Wandera

The rivalry in the pay television market in the last one year has led to increased market share for the different players.

Last year, pay channel GTV entered the local market and for the first time, posed the most serious competition to the already established Multichoice company.

The London-based GTV came into the market after acquiring 80 per cent rights for the popular English Premier League (EPL) attracting some of Multichoice’s subscribers.

However, one year down the line, Multichoice officials say that if anything, the entry of their rivals has increased their market share.

“The introduction of GTV has helped grow the market for us as we have seen a strong subscriber growth.

“We have maintained our leadership position, by offering the best local and international content,” said Ms Stella Ondimu, the Public Relations Manager at Multichoice Kenya.

GTV General Manager Charles Waituka, also confirmed an increase in subscription for their products since their entry into the local market.

“At the beginning of August, our subscriber base stood at one million where we operate in Africa, but now we have added another 50 per cent and we are still growing.

“The numbers have been enhanced by an increase in appetite for our products,” he said.

An area that both company’s are using to woo more subscribers is increased selection of channels, programming and reduction of set-up fees. Currently, to get connected to Multichoice costs Sh10,400 while GTV charges are slightly less. The price of connection has gone down by more than 50 per cent.


GTV entered the market with 17 channels. Now they have more than 20, while their competitors have more than 52 channels depending on the type of bouquet one decides to subscribe to.

“We continue to offer more affordable, balanced and exciting premium content for the whole family. You can expect to see more choice in terms of our programmes and additional channels,” says Waituka.

This year alone, GTV has added four new channels, while their competitors have added six. This happened in September and Ondimu says the move aims to give clients quality and choice. Though the loss of the exclusive rights for the EPL was expected to be a major blow for Multichoice, Ondimu insists that has not been the case, as the company has continued to grow its subscriber base on other exciting programme offerings.

“Kenyan viewers are sophisticated in their taste, and they realise that there is more to DsTV than just the EPL. We have a complete family offering catering for different needs,” she says.

Apart from the EPL, the GTV General Manager says they are determined to offer viewers a selection of rich and high quality programmes.

“We are exploring options in reality programming. Furthermore, we will continue to enhance our sports offering and also look at developing religious programmes, which are in great demand across the continent,” she disclosed.


While Waituika predicts that the set-up costs for pay television are expected to drop, Ondimu does not think so. She says the market is becoming more complex, driving up the cost of exclusive rights. “Unlike other industries, here competition does not reduce the price to consumers. As content rights increase, these are passed on to subscribers,” she says. Ondimu adds that the only thing customers will have is a wider choice. Waituika, however, believes that with a more advanced and efficient delivery platform, the set-up costs are likely to go down.

“With us there will always be a balance in good content and variety and also good pricing. As we make our delivery platform more advanced and efficient, it should substantially reduce the cost for customers,” he says. Both are optimistic about the future of pay television in Africa, with Ondimu predicting that the introduction of unique technologies will play a key role in driving its growth. Multichoice boastd of various unique technologies like DsTV mobile and High Definition Television.

“If other companies follow the lead, it will give the African content, compelling future,” she predicts.

She says new technology, and improved quality and volume of their content, will be a key driver in the industry. Waituika says balanced and exciting premiums that appeal to the market and affordability will drive growth in the sub-sector.

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