NTV and Citizen hatred for Digital Migration

For roughly over a week NTV, KTN and Citizen stopped providing signals to StarTimes and GOtv. Both StarTimes and GOtv released press statements to this effect explaining to viewers that the withdrawal is due to expiry of agreement between the Free to Air signal providers and the PayTV platforms. This is how GOtv put it:

GOtv apologises for the disruption in the carriage of free to air channels, KTN and Citizen, whose carriage contracts have terminated. However, we are in the process of renewing these channel carriage contracts. As soon as the agreements are concluded the channels will resume carriage under the previous channel numbers Citizen (channel 93) and KTN (channel 92).

We regret any inconvenience to our valued GOtv subscribers


As much as NTV, Citizen and KTN, being the three media houses with issues on digital migration, decided to withdraw their signals from the PayTV platforms, I haven’t understood why NTV and Citizen went ahead to withdraw their signals from Signet, denying the over half a million Kenyans with STBs the chance to watch high quality signals through their set top boxes.

I actually expected NTV in particular to be in the fore front in ensuring that it not only remained on Signet but improved the quality of content given the Nation Media Group’s acknowledgement of the important role digital migration plays in lowering the cost of broadcast. As currently is the situation, NMG is required to put up infrastructures across the country in order to  transmit programmes on both NTV and QTV – in addition to license fees it has to pay for each TV Station for each region.

As I write this, NTV has not been able to penetrate the entire country even after the many years it has been on air. I talked with a close friend who works at Nzoia Sugar but resides in Webuya and he told me that they do not have NTV signal in that part of the country. But Signet by KBC offers guys like NTV a chance to penetrate the entire country without the need to invest in any additional transmission infrastructures like the towers and boosters all over. With Signet, NTV would only need to concentrate on production but pays Signet for the nationwide coverage.

NMG knows this and that’s why Linus Gitahi talked of NMG’s support for digital migration during the release of the company’s financial reports for 2013/2014 financial year. NMG had even gone ahead and sponsored ads for viewers to buy set top boxes on NTV, Daily Nation and Easy FM.

The reason NTV and Citizen might have withdrawn their signals from Signet is probably based on the Court of Appeal’s ruling that instructed CCK to ensure that the three media houses (or Media Owners Association?) get their own license to distribute digital signal. This would mean that all contents by the media houses will be distributed, not via Signet, but via the consortium the three will form to distribute the digital signals once the license is granted. This will then imply that the consortium will be in competition with Signet and so they do not see any reasons to continue paying for signal distribution to Signet.

But the consortium is yet to be given a license yet Kenyans still need to be encouraged to buy the set top boxes so that, by the time the analogue signal finally goes off (most probably by June 2015 given the un-ending court drama), there won’t be complains by the media houses on the premise that majority of Kenyans do not have the set top boxes. Right now, it would have been better for NTV and Citizen to strengthen the transmission even as they wait for their platform for digital distribution to go live.

My question to NTV and Citizen, do you guys really want Kenyans to buy set top boxes? If yes, what will motivate them to switch to digital viewing if your channels are missing in the available platform for free to air viewing?

I have been made aware that the sole reasoning behind NTV’s and Citizen’s withdrawal of their signal from Signet is that they are attempting to blackmail the government into giving them the third license. The government on the other hand has taken a step back from issuing the license, at least not until the court case lodged at the Supreme Court by CCK and the government is heard and determined.

If this be the case, then I pity our media industry. We cannot achieve progress through blackmails that work against progress. Good news is that set top box distributors like Smart-Beaver are still reporting increasing sales thanks to marketing campaign by the Nation Media Group.


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