In a new and interesting turn of events, things could not be as rosy as the three major media houses might have painted. This is if what Nairobitech is reporting is true, that KTN could be on it’s way to exiting the Africa Digital Network Consortium. The three media houses have been on a chase with the Kenya government to get their own license to transmit their programs and also sell their own set top box. This is viewed as a way to differentiate themselves from the numerous TV and radio channels that will get equated to them in terms of reach by the impending digital migration in Kenya.
The three wanted to be on their own and probably deny the other two licensees PANG and SIGNET their channels in what is viewed as a bid to protect their revenues. Upon gaining the license, the three went back to court to stop the government from shutting down their analogue signals while they set up their own digital transmission infrastructure. This is a huge financial investment that also requires time which they really are lacking. What lies between them and success in their endeavours is a court case over at the supreme court that seeks to determine whether they can have extra frequencies allocated to them to better serve the consumers they wish to reach.
They also do not have a license to transmit channels from other TV stations at a fee, something which SIGNET and PANG already have. Putting all these factors in, you realize that if they do not get their way at the courts then they have a long way that is not guaranteed success.
So if indeed KTN is looking for a way out of the consortium, it could be as a result of viewing the risks associated with the project. Nairobi alone has seen over a million set top boxes sold and the same will go to the wider affluent parts of Kenya as the second phase will still find them not ready. Which Kenyans of means will be waiting till March to get what the consortium offers and it has no promise of being better, in fact would be deemed as the inferior offering?
This will leave them scraping for bad demographics of last minuters or those who really struggle to afford the Kshs 3000 set top box months later. Serious disadvantage.
Should this happen, then KTN might consider being another channel on the tens of free channels already available on the free to air set-top boxes. Or try get some little exclusivity by joining Bamba tv as Nairobitech suggests. The rest of the team at Africa Digital Network Royal Media Group and Nation Media Group will have lost a third wheel in their very uncertain journey to try have their cake and eat it.
Differentiation in channels for consumers going forward will really be about content, not reach, and probably familiarity. So this will be an interesting one to watch.