22 May 2014

Uganda: Minister Asks Pay TVs for Cheaper Offers

Rose Namayanja, the minister of Information and National Guidance, has urged pay television service providers to be more innovative if they want to remain competitive and attract subscribers in a small market like Uganda's. Innovations, if undertaken, deliver the desired values to the consumers, she said, adding that the prices of products must not be beyond the reach of people in the lower class, who make up the majority of the clientele.

"For a better pay television industry, companies need to refrain from leveraging on only price competition because more serious customers are more sensitive to better quality than the prices. Therefore, offering them services aligned with the dynamics of new technologies gives a better competitive edge," Namayanja said.

She was speaking in Nakaseke after launching Star Sat, the new technology by StarTimes, which enables the Chinese firm to broadcast content through satellite signals powered by dishes. Kevin Chen, the chief executive officer of StarTimes Uganda, said the introduction of Star Sat creates more options for customers given that the new service runs alongside the original antenna-powered Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) system.

The introduction of Star Sat means the market has two service providers offering both DTT and Direct to Home (DTH) after MultiChoice added GOtv to Dstv. Zuku and Azam televisions offer DTH only.

Chen explained that Star Sat is one of the key strategies they are undertaking to widen geographical coverage, increase penetration and prepare the nation for a successful digital migration process. Charges for initial connection with dishes are between Shs 200,000 and Shs 120,000 for DTH while the DTT ranges from Shs 70, 000 to Shs 65,000.

Chen appealed to government for subsidies and more tax waivers on broadcasting technology in order to bring the charges down to affordable levels for many Ugandans. Pay television firms are concerned that high charges could jeopardise the ongoing digital migration programme from analogue broadcasting. The Uganda Communications Commission has set December 2015 as the deadline for disconnecting all analogue television sets.

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