MultiChoice Kenya Invests heavily in Local Content despite monopoly feud

Last week, I, together with other news reporters, were taken on a tour of the just launched M-Net and Super Sport Studios in what was formerly known as the Film Studios opp the Ngong Race Course.

The expansive grounds hold several studios complete with 4 fully equipped sets with the latest equipment in video, sound, lighting and editing. This together with a dish farm will enable the two content providers download and upload content straight to the Multi-Choice Africa Head offices in Randburg for bouquet selection.

This is in light of the changing consumer preference which is gradually shifting from international to local content as well as the global shift from analogue to digital frequency which will see the space open up to more players.

The investment has cost MultiChoice over half a Billion shillings. The studios were launched on earlier today and was attended by ICT cabinet secretary Fred Matiangi, Sports Art and Culture cabinet secretary Hassan Wario and a host of other personalities from the entertainment and sporting circles.

Andre Venter, head of SuperSport in Africa, said: “East Africa has a great appetite for high-quality viewing and we intend delivering. We hope that this reaffirms our confidence in the region and its people.”

60% Local Content Directive

Last year, the government had given a directive that at least 40 per cent of all content airing in television stations in the country be produced locally. In April however, President Uhuru Kenyatta revised the threshold upwards to 60 per cent to create more job opportunities for the Kenyan youth in arts and film industries.

As many free to air TV stations struggle to fill up the 60% with 2hrs of news & political debates, Multi-Choice Kenya has decided to make a huge investment in local talent.

AfricaMagic LogoKona – An East African Telenovela

Last week saw the launch of Kona – an African Soap Opera that will be showing on the Africa Magic channels both on DSTV and GoTV.

Set in Dagoretti Corner, Kona is an East African Telenovela where glitz and glamour meets grit and sweat; love and family confront betrayal and solitude; success and triumph are pitted against failure and desperation. According to Risper Muthamia the M-Net EA’s Regional Manager, the entire cast for Kona is Kenyan and Mnet will be producing 250 episodes of Kona to air the whole year. Broadcast of the show started on Monday 26th August for 5 days in a week.

Kona is one of the many local productions that MNet will seek to produce either purchasing rights for ready shows or commissioning. As Risper confirmed, they have so far received 56 commissioned movies.

Simba Super Soccer

This weekly magazine show on East Africa football is now in-house at the Super Sport Studios with a complete set. Speaking to Auka Gecheo the General Manager for Super Sport in E.Africa, he confirmed that they are now seeking to do more similar magazine shows focusing on different types of sports as they now have 4 channels dedicated to local sports.

Local Content, the next Gold Rush

But despite the government’s intervention that is expected to increase the demand for locally produced broadcast content, producers will be grappling with funding crisis as financial institutions shy away from the industry. Unlike the analogue platform, the digital signal allows for more channels to be broadcast within a single frequency thereby creating a big demand for content. According to the Kenya Film Commission, many finance institutions shy away from the creative arts industry because returns on investment are not readily clear.

“However, it is envisaged that as demand for local content grows and more feasible productions are realised, financial institutions will find the industry attractive and therefore provide resources,” KFC chief executive officer Peter Mutie told the Sunday Nation. Among other interventions the government has made in the industry is the proposal to set up a national lottery scheme to fund the creative films and sports. Kenya was expected to have already shifted to the digital broadcasting platform by January this year, but like most of the East African Community, it missed the deadline. A new deadline of 13th December 2013.

Zuku TV Logo Unfair Competition
Even as Multi-Choice makes such a huge investment in a market that it has had a monopoly since its entry into the Kenyan market, that is now coming under alot of threat following the entry of Zuku and StarTimes.

Multi-Choice SuperSport hold exclusive rights for local sports content as well as the English Premier league which it has held since 2009 when Gateway television, popularly known as GTV, which had managed to acquire the rights, collapsed leading to huge losses to customers who had paid for services.

Zuku is now threatening to take the regulator CCK to court over DSTV’s monopoly of content.Chinese pay TV provider StarTimes has appealed to the government to compel its competitor, DStv, to re-sell some of its exclusive content like the English Premier league matches. But in a recent interview, MultiChoice Africa executive chairman Nolo Letele said the company had no plans to sell any of its content to other players.

DSTV’S Monopoly crashes in Nigeria

DSTV LogoLast month, the Federal Government decided to break the monopoly of Digital Satellite Television (DSTV) over the broadcast of some programmes in the country, notably the English Premiership League (EPL). And now, the management of EPL has separated Nigeria from the rest of Africa in its marketing deals, thereby removing the nation from the grip of Multichoice, owners of DSTV. This has set the stage for a healthier competition in the local media market.

The customer wins

It will therefore be interesting to see how the battle over premium content as well production of more local content will play out. We can only hope that in the end, the customer will be the winner.

A call for content

MNet & SuperSport are making a call for content. If you have a pilot or a complete series, get in-touch with them through their content buyer, Margaret Mathore.

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