Homegrown content tilts stakes for pay-TV channels

A review of the state of the TV content industry in Kenya.

Demand for homespun content has spiraled, as consumer options grow with the advent of multiple platforms, some which offer an array of options beyond the traditional television programmes.

For close to a decade, South Africa’s twin pay-TV frontrunners Multi Choice and M- NET dominated the local market, taking on the lion’s share of provision of digital broadcast services.

But over the recent past, stakes have tilted significantly – stemming off the entry into the fray of rival competitors such as Chinese-owned Digital and Satellite pay-TV broadcaster Star Times Media.

In their quest to rope in a piece of the fast-growing subscribers’ pie, service providers are lately compelled to offer affordable content packages, which must also resonate with the target audiences.

Analysts have been quick to point out an existing gap which seemingly, propelled Multi Choice’s success as the preferred option for consumers spread across the broader East and Southern African regions.

Until about five years ago, the DSTV brand products commanded an almost indisputable market leader status, riding on the laurels of its then estimated 39% stake of the regional market.

The combined Multi Choice and M-Net programming bouquets were seemingly tailored for the high-end clientele and an emergent middle-class consumer base, increasingly building upon their disposable incomes to spend on pay-TV.

Since making its entry locally, Star Times Media opted to bank heavily on gaining foothold and a breakthrough into the competitive regional market by engaging in a shift of strategy.

So far the firm has managed to curve its niche hinged on an estimated 40% of the untapped mass viewership market – a sector vastly overlooked by their South African rivals.

On the flip-side, whereas the Star Times Media enjoys considerable growth in their subscription numbers, Multi Choice’s DSTV brand is keen to tighten its grip on the rising middle-class segment.

Of more significance was introduction of indigenous shows on MNET’s then popular Maisha Magic channel. At its onset, content encompassed multiple genres programs, which ranged from sitcoms, tele-novelas to reality and drama series.

But barely six months after its launch, this channel got phased and focus shifted in favour of an alternate Maisha Magic Swahili, whose subscriber rankings had reportedly out-paced the latter’s viability.

The subsequent rush for Swahili productions was further ignited after unveiling of another channel M-Net East Africa, stirring up consumer-driven appeal and demand for homegrown, local programming.

Nairobi based Dorothy Ghettuba’s Spielworks Productions was among trendsetters who rode on this new wave.

They went on to churn out the highly acclaimed Sumu La Penzi series whose cast comprised of localized hip-hop celebrities like DNG and singer Avril, among others.

Buoyed on by the rising consumption for indigenous films and subscription listings across the region, pay-TV channels may shift their focus, by opting to invest in an array of local productions to boost their content menu.

What this implies is that service providers can explore and pursue a multi-pronged vision, which in the long term taps into an inherent pool of previously untapped East African talent and film making resources.

Homegrown content tilts stakes for pay-TV channelsTwaweza Comunications

Twaweza Communications Limited is a strategic communication institution established in 2000 and based in Nairobi. We work in the areas of public policy, media and culture for sustainable development. We are committed to increasing public knowledge and action through research, training, advocacy and documentation for accessibility, agricultural policy, sustainable environment, equity in gender relations, accountable leadership and people centered governance.

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