Pay TV industry war hots up with new entrant

Wednesday November 17 2010

By Walter Wafula


The price war that is raging in the telecommunications market could soon shift to the pay television industry in Uganda with the arrival of Smart TV.

The company behind the new TV has been recruiting distributors of its products and service over the last three weeks with a promise to turn pay television “upside down.” Smart is a brand of Next Generation Broadcasting (NGB) –a Swedish television company with operations in Uganda, Kenya and Ghana.

Active players
Uganda currently, has five active pay TV operators including MultiChoice Uganda (DSTV), Star DTV Uganda (Star Times), Pearl Digital TV and Kampala SITI Cable and MOTV Africa. But the latter has been operating undercover for weeks without a licence after the Broadcasting Council withdrew its licence for pirating some of its channels from DSTV.

MultiChoice and Star are currently engaged in a price war to win more customers. On Monday, MultiChoice cut its entry price to Shs270,000 for a kit of 35 channels from Shs360,000. The reduction came after Star Times slashed its entry price to Shs100,000 last month, from Shs120,000.

Mr Martin Abuya, the chief executive officer NGB, told Daily Monitor that Smart TV is also on the verge of going commercial in Uganda after launching in Ghana and Kenya.

Analogue Vs digital
However, the launch of its Ugandan operations rests on the progress of the national broadcaster towards the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting. “We are putting things in place so that when they (Uganda Broadcasting Corporation) get their act together we start,” Mr Abuya said in interview on Monday.

In the transition process, UBC was chosen as the signal distributor in Uganda handing it a vital role in the migration process.

The broadcaster’s role involves the establishment of the necessary national digital infrastructure and administration structures. In Ghana and Kenya, NGB is operating in partnership with national operators Ghana and Kenya Broadcasting Corporations.