CIO East Africa (Nairobi)

Kenya: Letele - Ignorance, Biggest Challenge to Digital Migration

MultiChoice just crossed the 2 million subscriber mark in Africa on Saturday 15th December 2012, including 4 million subscribers in South Africa; the company has now 6 million subscribers across Africa. Speaking during a press conference in Fairview Hotel in Nairobi, Nolo Letele, the Executive Chairman, MultiChoice South Africa Holding Ltd says the company underwent through several challenges to achieve this mark.

During the briefing Letele noted that understanding the African market was key, for instance MultiChoice had sophisticated advertisements for the South African market, whereas, Kenya needed just plain and simple awareness of their product, "The Company therefore realised a need to avoid treating Africa as one homogeneous market in order to strive". Said Letele.

He also spoke about airing rights, how they have been a challenge to their broadcasting business. Having individual rights in each country can be expensive and having blanket ones across the continent prevents competitors, however competitive environments are good since it shows subscribers how good the company is. "DStv has given them much more than the competitors; this is our pay off line", says Letele.

Compared to Kenya, out of the 4 million subscribers in South Africa, 33% are on the digital platform, it is very difficult to make people convert since they will have to spend money on the digital decoders, Letele says the government will need to play a role, set a subsidized price on the decoders and hold workshops up to the rural areas to make sure people know that the lights will be switched off.

Ignorance is going to be the biggest challenge towards the digital migration in Kenya and the government should engage into mass awareness campaigns so that everyone one will have a smooth transition when the time comes.

Letele regards technology as the corner stone for MultiChoice business operation, the company actually set up the first Pay TV, Mnet in 1986 which was streamed through analog signals on a terrestrial channel. They then moved into digital satellite transmission in 1995, which opened up its channels to many watchers and changed the viewing patterns. Later on PVR enriched this experience for example subscribers being able to record and watch what they want when they want.

"Television will be here for a while, what will change is the way content will be delivered to consumers, for example, they will have content in their mobile devices and the online platform", says Letele.

To compete in the online market, MultiChoice is developing an online offering despite it being a small market at the moment however Letele says it is too an imperative for the company since its fragmented, not linear as we are used to, prime time will disappear since people watch recorded content.

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