London — Last month, global Swedish broadcast group Modern Times Group AB (MTG) launched a free-to-air channel in Tanzania and has its eyes set on more African countries.
Sylvain Béletre, Balancing Act's broadcast analyst interviewed Joseph Hundah, Executive Vice President of the Group's African operations to provide an overview of MTG's updated operations in Africa today.
Joseph Hundah was appointed as EVP of the Group's African operations in November 2012, and has been CEO of MTG's African operations since joining the Group in 2011.
Joseph previously worked for South African pay-TV operator M-Net and Supersport, and was Managing Director of the MultiChoice satellite pay-TV platform in Nigeria.
MTG's African operations comprise two free to Air TV channels, Viasat1 and TV1 in Ghana and Tanzania respectively, Modern Africa Productions, and the distribution of 4 MTG's Viasat documentary channels on third party broadcast networks in six African countries.
MTG in Africa has over 100 people working for it and the group is working on producing local content and on adding radio stations. Territory-wise, MTG's primary focus in 2014 is on Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania and Mozambique.
They are Viasat1 in Ghana and TV1 in Tanzania.
The company started by rolling out the free-to-air Viasat1 TV channel in Ghana in 2008, now the second-ranked channel in the country with a 24% commercial share of viewing in the target audience group.
Viasat Broadcasting was awarded a five-year national terrestrial TV license by the National Communications Authority of the Republic of Ghana in December 2007.
Viasat Broadcasting was MTG's first commercial free-to-air entertainment TV channel outside Europe. It reported its first quarterly profit in 2013.Viasat1 channel was built up from the ground during 2008, with the development of everything from transmission towers to play-out facilities in the capital Accra.
It is transmitted free-to-air and received by regular terrestrial antennae.
Viasat1 in Ghana features locally produced hit shows such as The One Show, Born Starz and Boys Boys.
In January 2014, MTG's second African free-TV channel, TV1 has launched on Tanzania's digital terrestrial network, which reaches almost 15 million people - up to 30% of the 48 million people in the country. TV1 is focused on a broad, slightly female skewed, target audience of 15-49 year olds.
TV1 has been awarded a digital terrestrial (DTT) licence by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, and the Group is now building new offices, as well as play-out and studio facilities, in Tanzania´s largest city - Dar-es-Salam. The four largest free-to-air channels in Tanzania are ITV, Star TV, EATV, and public broadcaster TBC1.
Tanzania country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by 6.5% in 2012 to 27.9 billion USD, and is predicted to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world over the next two years, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In addition, MTG broadcasts four pay-TV-channels in six countries in Africa. Viasat History, Viasat Nature, Viasat Explorer, and Viasat Crime were launched in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria and in Mozambique through StarTimes DTT/DTH network and Wananchi's Zuku pay TV networks.
MTG is watching other fast-growing African countries and economies but the key countries in in its sights in 2014 are Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.
Today, MTG's recipe across Africa is three-fold. First, it broadcasts high quality edutainment with a mix of local (30%) and international (70%) content. The broadcasters'policy is to stay away from political parties, although it does relay political news.
Secondly, the company has set up 3 centres in Africa which produce local content, not only included in the African channels but also relayed through its channels outside of Africa.
MTG also acquires content from outside parties. "We get approached by producers on a regular basis but we are quite picky: we do not want what everyone broadcasts and we'd rather go for very original, high quality programmes" said Joseph Hundah, adding that edutainment, drama, and programmes for children and mothers are top priority.
Its production arm Modern African Productions (MAP) was founded in December 2010 and has three African offices. In Ghana's capital city of Accra, yet with its roots in Europe, MAP operates with the mission statement: "We think global, we produce local".
MAP has taken over all original productions for MTG's first African free-TV channel, Viasat1 in Ghana. Furthermore, MAP's team produces for other commercial TV channels in Ghana and is looking to expand its local content footprint. In 2013 MAP launched offices in Lagos, Nigeria and the third MAP country is Tanzania.
MAP also serves international clients and has produced TV commercials, developed its own formats and is active in the field of broadcast and mobile entertainment.
Thirdly, MTG benefits both from its experience of successfully launching a channel in Ghana and of being a global player with strong quality standards, customer service, people's training and corporate responsibility values.
One of the key issues with growing the TV business in most African countries is about releasing regular, detailed media audience surveys to attract advertising.
MTG has looked at locally produced surveys and has also conducted its own research to better understand local audiences' tastes.
In Africa, about 70% of advertising on MTG channels comes from outside media buyers whereas 30% comes from direct sales. TV advertising in Africa attracts major sectors like mobile telephony, banks, airlines, FMCG and car industries.
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