London — Despite the seemingly unassailable position of DStv in the pay TV market in Sub Saharan Africa, challengers keep coming forward to take them on.
The latest challenger is AzamTV from Tanzania that has ambitious plans to launch itself across the continent. Sylvain Beletre talked to its CEO Rhys Torrington about what its got planned.
AzamTV, launched by Azam Media is a DTH pay TV service in Tanzania which can carry up to 60 African and international channels - in the short term, for a monthly subscription of $8.
In the audiovisual sector, Tanzania (population of 47 M) is becoming one of the most competitive African countries both from an audience and TV offering perspective, despite limited terrestrial broadcast coverage (24% of population), a restricted consumer market and relatively limited broadband access.
DTT has been launched carrying some existing free-to-air channels in the country (ITV, TBC1 Star TV, Channel Ten, East Africa TV).
Competition-wise, there are three main pay TV players in Tanzania:
1. StarTimes Tanzania (Star Media Tanzania, the Joint Venture between Chinese StarTimes at 65% and the Government's Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation - TBC at 35%) markets monthly bouquets ranging from USD 5.60 to 22.50, with an STB priced at between USD40 to USD60, and added a free door to door service.
It has some of the following local channels on its platform: STV MUSIC, STV E1, STV E2, STV KUNGFU.
In January 2013, TCRA estimated that 2 million DTT STBs had been sold, including 450,000 in the country's biggest commercial city Dar es Salaam.
2. Zuku pay TV network (monthly subscription from Ts 16,000/USD 9.73) available via satellite is currently present in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania - and will be rolling out to Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi and Zambia.
3. and DStv (about 80 TV channels) via digital satellite, which reaches between 40,000 to 100,000 homes in the country (DStv refused refused to give us the exact number).
At the start of 2013, Tanzania had around 2.3 million (and growing) households watching free-to-air satellite TV (eg. France24 English) and small local cable operators also reach a few thousand households (eg. CTV in Dar, etc.).
But there is still space for more healthy competition and Azam Media has a few cards up its sleeves.
AzamTV has home-grown channels and programmes, sports content, and exclusive rights. Indeed the AzamTV bouquet includes three home-grown TV channels: Azam One, Azam Two and Sinema Zetu (films in Kiswahili).
AzamTV has invested in sports' rights. The TV network been awarded the television broadcast rights for the Vodacom Premier League, to become exclusively available to AzamTV subscribers.
AzamTV will broadcast live and recorded Tanzania Premier League matches and carry on free-to-air channels in each of the countries it covers.
« With so many fans across Tanzania desperately keen to watch their favourite teams it seems an unnecessary waste not to make these matches available straight away.
So, with that in mind, I approached our friends at TBC and asked if they would be willing and able to take our live feed at no charge, beginning this weekend, until the mid-season break. » said Rhys Torrington in another interview.
Azam Media Limited has signed a cooperative arrangement with TBC so that football fans across Tanzania could see Mainland Premier League matches live every weekend until the mid-season break on TBC1, courtesy of AzamTV.
The Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) and Tanzania Premier League Interim Committee declared themselves to be very supportive of this pragmatic initiative.
Azam is a family type of business and this has particular strengths when it comes to making financial commitments over a long period.
Azam Media belongs to Bakhresa Group from Tanzania which is involved in several sectors: food, football, agro, petroleum, transport, plastic.
It has made efforts to strengthen its technical skills and coverage: the company is investing heavily both in the latest outside broadcast technology and the training of the crew. It purchased two outdoor broadcast vans (OB vans) to cover events.
In addition, Eutelsat has developed a training programme for installers called 'Satëlite' to ensure that subscribers to AzamTV receive the best service for the installation of their DTH equipment, according to a statement.
Over the last two weeks of October 2013 the 'Satëlite' team has trained over 500 installers from across Tanzania, says the press statement.
Its content is compressed in MPEG4 format and uplinked by Eutelsat to the EUTELSAT 7A satellite from its Cagliari teleport in Sardinia.
AzamTV has not put all its eggs in one basket and is thinkings big. It plans to roll out across Africa and wants to attract 750,000 households in the next 5 years.
The TV network has signed on satellite operator Eutelsat Communications in a bid to expand its broadcasting footprint across Africa. The deal entails a long-term contract for capacity on the EUTELSAT 7A satellite.
Azam Media says it plans to use 108 MHz of capacity connected to the satellite's African footprint as part of its move to broadcast its yet-to-be-launched pay-TV venture, AzamTV, from its Tanzanian base into sub-Saharan Africa.
"With the footprint and the services provided by Eutelsat we benefit from a solid platform and unrivalled DTH experience that will help transform into reality our vision of delivering exceptional entertainment at a great price into ordinary TV homes across the region," added Torrington.
After Tanzania, countries that are targeted next are in order, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, DRC, Zambia, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.
AzamTV certainly faces competition and local consumers have limited resources but there is no reason why local audiences should not be offered another alternative 'made in Africa' pay TV bouquet.
Competition is still small and content quality is limited compared to what is available in other more developed markets.
'The full service launch will be on 16th December 2013 but those anxious to try the service will be able to obtain decoders from 6th December 2013, though subscription charges will only kick in on 16th,' added Rhys Torrington.
The contact for content acquisition at AzamTV is innovative, vibrant and dynamic Efe Atiyio, Director of Programming; efe.atiyio(at)azam-media.com
Azam Media is not looking for outside investors currently Torrington confirmed.