UEFA announced that the 2012-15 DTT media rights for sub-Saharan Africa have been awarded to Chinese pay TV operator Star Times. It has come from nothing two years ago to becoming a player to watch.
UEFA announced that the 2012-15 DTT media rights for the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League in sub-Saharan Africa have been awarded to Star Times.
Pay TV football sports rights have been hard fought over in the last five years and arguably were one of the factors that led to the demise of GTV. Most people in the industry argue that they are over-priced but since companies are willing to pay the premium, it’s hard to see how this will change.
The only route to change is probably a regulatory one. In Europe, regulators have insisted that football rights are broken up into different packages, allowing greater choice and competition in the market. Currently African football rights – particularly Pay TV rights – tend to be locked down by a limited number of operators. But because Africa’s broadcast regulators are young, it will be some while before they have the confidence and skills to take on this task but it will happen.
Meanwhile Star Times is the dark horse Pay TV operator, powering up on the inside rail. In July it claimed to have connected 200,000 subscribers across its 10 East African territories. In Uganda, for example, it claims to have 30,000 subscribers; in Burundi, 8,000 subscribers; 30,000 in Rwanda; and 100,000 subscribers in Tanzania where it is partnership with state broadcaster TBC as one of the country’s signal carriers. The balance of subscribers are in Kenya.
In Nigeria it claims to have got 400,000 subscribers and is rolling out across the country, with boxes now selling in Port Harcourt. It is looking at 12more states including Abia, Anambra, Kaduna and others before the end of the year. It claims to be selling 30,000 boxes a month. Taking East and West Africa together, its claimed subscriber base is around 600,000 subscribers, making it the largest of the current group of DStv challengers. Back in its home base in China it has around 7 million subscribers.
Like all the Pay TV challengers, Star Times is pitching is price lower to attract new customers. The initial installation fee is around US$60 while the monthly subscription fee is $7.50 and offers about 36 channels for all the East African countries.
Star Times’ strategy has been to do deals with state broadcasters ahead of any Government or regulatory digital transition strategy being in place. The weakness in this strategy are illustrated by Ghana where the regulator NCA told Swedish-owned NGB (which is pursuing the same strategy) that they must line up like everyone else to get a new licence. This forced it to go into alliance with Skyy TV which already has a licence so that it could continue operating.
However, the DTT space will not go uncontested by DStv. Because the DVB-T2 standard can carry both a terrestrial and mobile TV signal, it has rolled out a DTT service in four countries (Zambia, Malawi, Nigeria and Kenya) through it’s GoTV Platform using its existing DVB-H masts. So watch this space with interest as the formerly glacially slow DTT transition begins to start becoming competitive.