London — The number of TV channels available to viewers in Ghana has proliferated. All too many look the same and as the economy sinks, advertisers are less willing to back the same old horses. Russell Southwood talks to Michael Adjey Gyang, Managing Director, Itex Media Ghana about its new health channel.
Gyang is one of Ghana's veteran broadcast professionals having previously worked with African Film and Music Company, Homebase TV and iflix. The idea for the channel came out of two insights. Firstly, he said:"There's been an influx of general entertainment channels so these have become too ordinary".
Secondly, the idea appeals to the self-interest of a clearly identifiable group of viewers:"You need coverage that gives you well-being. As we age, what we want to make changes and watch things about how to do this. Promoting health is more than just entertainment. Viewers want to make sure that they are well enough to enjoy their retirement".
The key focus of the channel is healthy living, a wellness environment and a sanitary lifestyle. Timpaani TV was originally an FTA channel on a DTT platform but now Gyang is seeking to commercialise it:"We're selling advertising now (November 2018) so we're really only 1 month old. It's licensed and running".
It will have a combination of original and bought-in programming with its very own angle on things:"It's news or politics but things like Is the Finance sector healthy enough? Is tourism sector healthy enough? It will run things like aerobics, dieting and weight loss projects and look at some of the country's chronic health problems and diseases like diabetes".
In terms of bought-in content, it has documentaries from the big news platforms on health like Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle.
The audience potential is the middle aged and the old:"It's all the information they need for a healthy lifestyle. Even the President will say I will watch it. When we start productions on the health segment, the audiences will be captured. The potential audience is probably somewhere between 0.5-1 million viewers".
He is confident he will find an advertising base for the channel.:"We have MTN as an advertiser and other potential advertisers include beverages but not alcoholic drinks, over the counter pharmaceutical goods and services targeting lifestyle like food, telcos, banks and especially insurance".
So how will it break through the surrounding noise created by the existence of over 100 TV channels in the country:"Well it's always good to use negative publicity. We want to get people to normalize their health. But also we want to look at how is the media covering this or that epidemic. We can explain what you need and use resource persons like dieticians, doctors and professors".
He cites the example of research on Tilapia, one of the country's basic fish staples showing that it often has high toxicity levels that the channel has publicized:"This caused quite a stir. We want to soften the media airwaves. Not just say the Government is not doing this or doing that. This just distracts attention away from things you need to pay more attention to".
All this is happening against the backdrop of a broadcast TV sector that is really in very poor shape. Three of the major broadcasters have laid staff off: Metro TV (50 people), TV3 (25 people) and TV Africa (a sizeable number of people). That's the visible part but rumours are swirling about other players.
One well-known broadcaster has signed a big satellite contract and is not yet making the numbers and more people are wondering about the shooting star that is Zylofon Media. Owned and run by the CEO of Menzgold Bank, it has launched Zylofon TV and signed a number of high-profile artists to its label.
In February 2018 Shatta Wale was said to have been paid a US$1.5 million signing fee plus a car and a house for three years, a figure that was promptly denied by Zylofon Media. Other artists on the roster include: Stonebwoy, Becca, Kumi Guitar, Joyce Blessing.
In October 2017, Zylofon Media CEO Nana Appiah Mensah (who is also CEO of Menzgold Bank) was reported by My Joy Online to have bought a Gulfstream Private Jet G-IV worth $41 million. Mensah's Menz Gold Bank was asked by the regulator the SEC in September this year to stop its unlicensed trading of gold.
Gyang believes that 40% of the current channels will close in 2-3 years. So are Ghana's broadcasters also being hit by the shift to digital?:"The education (campaign) on the transition has not really been settled yet. Social media has captured the millennials but the analogue thing is still there in the lives of people."
"There are people who can't afford to buy a new TV or DTT box. I needed to buy my parents a new set top box... The switch off has not yet happened".
"There needs to be more collaboration between the networks and production houses. With the health channel, we don't want to do all programmes as in-house productions. We need to collaborate. We will do the PR and branding and we're looking at splitting revenues with the producers. When migration sets in, it's about content, not the name of the channel."
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