Kenyan media firms wage war on GoTV, StarTimes

By James Ratemo, Nairobi, Kenya

As Kenya enters home stretch in its journey to digital TV broadcasting, three local media firms have waged a war on pay TV companies that are broadcasting their content without consent.

The three firms, Standard Media Group (Owner of Kenya Television Network - KTN), Royal Media Services (Owner of Citizen TV) and Nation Media Group (Owner of NTV and QTV) now want GoTV and StarTimes to stop broadcasting their free to air content without consent.

GoTV and Startimes are currently charging viewers a monthly subscription to view various TV channels including the free-to-air local channels.

The three media houses had gone to court requesting for more time to import and market their own set-top boxes (gadgets that convert digital TV signals to analogue so that analogue TV sets can receive digital TV signals).

In fact the trio had last year successfully stopped GoTV and StarTimes from airing the trio’s content, leaving viewers enraged.

Most Kenyans would not buy set top boxes that would not enable them view free-to-air channels thus GoTV and StarTimes are likely to lose substantial market share to the three local media firms if the petition succeeds.

 “We are finding ways to stop this infringement of copyright… we are soon launching our own set-top boxes to distribute our free to air channels,” said the trio in a televised advert currently running in the four stations: Qtv, NTV, Citizen TV and KTN.

The local media firms have therefore warned viewers not to be duped by GoTV and Startimes into buying their set top boxes with promise to receive KTN, QTV, NTV and Citizen TV, which are free to air channels.

The Communication Authority of Kenya already started implementing the analogue to Digital TV transition plan beginning with Nairobi and its environs.

The roll out will cover the whole country by March this year.

Radio Africa group, (owner of Kiss and Classic TVs) already launched own set-top box called Bamba TV. Users of Bamba TV are only required to purchase the set-top box at a one-off price and have unlimited access a number of channels free of charge.

With eminent entry of Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services and Standard Media Group, competition in the digital and pay TV market will go a notch higher.

The three media houses under a consortium they are calling Africa Digital Network, control 90 per cent of the media in the country consisting of "87 per cent market share in TV, 80 per cent in radio and 98 per cent in print.

This makes them a force to reckon in the digital migration and could easily elbow out competitors if untamed.

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