London — Ghana's Crystal TV has an ambitious plan to create a Pay TV bouquet across Africa. Working with Eutelsat, it has launched the Mega-Choice Digital Network. Russell Southwood spoke to Crystal TV's President and CEO, Chief Paul Crystal-Djirackor.
The idea for the satellite platform came from a strong feeling from Crystal TV's founder that he had to keep up with the pace of change:"I"ve been in the TV business in Ghana for 22 years. You have to stay ahead of broadcast technology. With the move to DTT, we've been in the forefront (of this transition). I was a member of the first taskforce on DTT."
But although he is still closely involved through the Association of Private Broadcasters, he came to the conclusion he had to set up his own satellite platform. It was launched in November 2014:"We spent time finding a reliable satellite provider and we now have a partnership with Eutelsat. I wanted to do something from A-Z, including the teleport and play-out. I wanted to own all parts of the chain. We now run two transponders."
Launched in January, the Mega-Choice Digital Network has three of Crystal TV's own channels on it: Prime (which includes sports), Extra (movies and entertainment) and Plus. A ten-year contract has been signed with Eutelsat Communications for capacity connected to the African service area of the Eutelsat 16A satellite to support the launch of Mega-Choice
There are also 16 other channels on the platform including: France 24, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, TV3, Kwese TV, Metro TV, EWTN Africa & Asia, Narrow Gate TV, GMP Newsworld, CGTN, Paradise Music Channel and many others will be available to homes as Free-to-Air and Free-to-View programmes while Filmbox Africa, Filmbox Arthouse, Filmbox Action, Fightbox HD, Docubox, FashionBox, Fast & Fun Box, Madscreen Box, 360 Tunebox, Homeland TV, AMNET, Junior World TV and other premium channels including VOD content will be offered as pay-TV content..
Several of the Ghanaian channels use the satellite to feed their sub-stations. Crystal TV also has a licence for pay DTT and has set up access points across Ghana with its three channels on it. In addition, it is also present on the Government-run, free-to-air platform operated by KNET.
It intends to launch its own Pay TV service:"We are building up our own content and getting international content plus locally commissioned premium content. We want offer thematic programming covering health, entertainment, sport, culture and tradition. On the price point, I intend to go very low. With a low price, you can get huge numbers and you can break even. The lowest price is currently US$10 per month and we want to go lower." The service will also be aimed at users outside of Ghana, including nearby neighbor Nigeria.
So how will it finance these ambitious plans?:"The cost of set-top boxes is high but you have to make sure you have the right equipment. There are investors and partners (like Eutelsat) who are in the business to invest and a lot of thanks must go to them. We will work together with them to face the challenges. We have commissioned the major distributors to sell set-top-boxes and have created a network of installers." It will also be launching a VoD platform with a Greek company.