Safaricom seeks TV station licence with eyes on Internet broadcast


Safaricom chief executive officer Bob Collymore (left) and general manager, consumer business Sylvia Mulinge during the launch of the firm’s Internet-enabled decoder in May. PHOTO | FILE

Safaricom has applied for a licence to operate a commercial free-to-air television station, signalling more competition for established broadcasters.

Communications Authority of Kenya director-general Francis Wangusi has given anyone with objections to Safaricom being awarded the licence 30 days to present his or her views to the regulator.

When contacted, Safaricom said it did not wish to disclose more details about its planned entry into TV broadcasting. The company said it would wait for the licence before revealing its plans for the station.

“We are still in the initial stages of discussions with content providers and will be able to respond more comprehensively on what content subscribers can enjoy once we have all the required licences,” Corporate Affairs director Stephen Chege told the Business Daily.

Safaricom joins hundreds of investors who have moved to take advantage of the recent migration from analogue to digital broadcasting which allows them to set up TV stations without having to put up expensive infrastructure such as transmitters.

This frees up investors’ resources to develop better programmes, with the government leaning on them to raise their local content to 40 per cent in the next one year and 60 per cent in four years.

READ: Safaricom makes data play with 4G-ready TV decoders

Safaricom’s financial muscle may see it secure premium local content, giving it an edge over other upcoming TV stations and a chance to challenge the dominant stations.

Before the digital migration, the TV business required significant investment which saw only a few stations dominate the airwaves.

The company has also applied for a licence to operate an Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) — which delivers video programmes through the Internet.

IPTV allows for more versatility, making it possible for users to replay current shows or watch shows broadcast hours or days ago.

In May, Safaricom launched its Internet-enabled decoder dubbed “The Big Box” that allows users to access free-to-air channels and access video-on-demand and downloads.

Safaricom is currently rolling out its Fourth Generation (4G) spectrum that allows for faster data transfer and better service quality.