London — Mass audience Free-To-Air satellite broadcasting platforms are relatively new to Africa. In partnership with SES, Multimedia Broadcasting has pioneered their development in Ghana. Russell Southwood spoke to Abdulai Awudu, Director of Programmes, Multimedia Broadcasting about how it has grown itself significant market share in the country.
Launched by Kwasi Twum in 1995, the Multimedia Group is one of Ghana's largest media companies and among its key properties are Joy FM, Adom FM and its online news sites that are the most visited locally. In 2009 it launched a Free To Air Satellite platform called Multi TV. The satellite platform it used was initiated and supported by SES, who also provided training for installers and other sales support.
"Multimedia decided to go into TV. DTT was coming and it was symptomatic of how things were moving across the media. We wanted to anticipate these changes." It also saw an audience gap because the analogue, terrestrial channels were largely focused on the capital Accra and the country's regional capitals. The original plan also flowed out of the perceived need to incentivize viewers to move to digital and buy a set-top box: its own satellite box was called Digibox.
The Multi TV platform launched with 10 thematic channels based on the subjects that were most popular with viewers based on the GAMPS market research survey including: movies, TV series, news, sport. One of its USPs was a Kids Channel that was not something found on Pay TV bouquets at the time. At the time, FTA channels would run an hour a day of kids programming.
One of its biggest assets in launching the new platform was its radio stations:"We had the leading radio stations to promote sales of our Digiboxes. We do what we know how to do best... We knew how to sell advertising and we replicated what we had done with the radio stations, targeting particular demographics".
After two years, it had reached 1.5 million households, a figure established through a reliable piece of market research. Eight years later, it has now reached 3 million plus households, giving it an audience of around 15 million people.
Learning from the success and failures of the original channel bouquet, it took the decision to reduce the number of channels to focus more on the successful ones:"SES's satellite neighbourhood now has 20 channels on it... .We had to ask: which of our channels are still effective? There was a need to shrink to grow. It was hard doing so much content and hard to find sponsors for the kids channel."
It merged some of the channels and was able to provide the same amount of content in a more limited number of channels. The three channels are now Joy News, Joy Prime and Adom TV. In audience terms, the "shrink to grow" approach has been a success. Adom TV is now the number one channel, Joy Prime number four and Joy News number 6:"These are all good high positions."
The proliferation of channels in Ghana - both TV and radio - has had a significant impact on ad revenues:"The older stations retained their share of the audiences. If the small stations did not target a specific demographic, they struggled. Joy News is aimed at high-end decision-makers. Advertisers always look at reach, share and content."
"There's lots of discounting in a competitive market but a premium product allows you to play around with discount levels". Despite these market pressures, there have been no dramatic exits from the market. Viasat has been sold to Kwese TV and others have simply changed their position in the market. Former big play Metro TV has lost audience share since "it left the sports arena."