StarTimes takes on Zuku and MultiChoice with satellite TV


StarTimes Kenya vice-president Mark Lisboa (left), StarSat DTH director Tracy Lixue and Public Relations manager Alex Mwaura during the launch of the Direct to Home (DTH) digital television satellite service known as StarSat September 3, 2014. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU

Pay television Company StarTimes Media has launched a home satellite TV service, stepping up competition for rivals Zuku and DSTv.

StarTimes has been the only pay-TV provider that did not have a satellite platform, which limited the speed at which it could spread its services around the country.

The Chinese-owned company has been running on Digital Terrestrial Technology while its rivals Zuku and MultiChoice, the owners of DSTv and GoTv; use both satellite and the terrestrial platform.

“We believe that we have a very strong product that will appeal to most viewers since our bouquets are priced competitively compared to our competitors’ who already offer their services through the satellite platform,” said the StarTimes Vice President Mark Lisboa during the launch. 

Subscribers intending to get connected to the StarTimes platform dubbed StarSat will need to buy a satellite dish for Sh5,600, which includes a one-month subscription valued at Sh2,500.

StarTimes has 272,594 subscribers on its digital terrestrial platform as per the Communications Authority of Kenya data.

It aims to sign up another 80,000 subscribers through the new satellite platform. The company entered the Kenyan market to take advantage of the ongoing switch from analogue to digital broadcasting system.

StarSat comes in four tariff plans, with the cheapest offering subscribers access to up to 48 channels at a monthly fee of  Sh899, another at Sh1,799 (70 channels), a third one at Sh2,499 (88 channels) and a Chinese plan at Sh1,499 (12 channels).

READ: China’s StarTimes bets big on local content

StarTimes charges between Sh499 and Sh2,499 for its digital terrestrial packages.

Zuku’s premium plan on satellite goes for Sh2,399 per month, while mid-tier Zuku Classic pay Sh1,199. Zuku Poa, which is heavy with news and sports costs Sh799 per month.

DStv subscribers on the Premium tariff plan pay Sh6,900 monthly while those on Compact Plus pay Sh4,370. The Family and Access plans cost Sh1,707 and Sh853.50 per month respectively.

This is the latest effort by StarTimes to get a piece of the satellite TV pie currently dominated by DStv and Zuku. In July the firm launched a Sh6.9 billion studio that will also house its Africa headquarters.

The StarTimes Africa headquarters will also host StarTimes Kenya offices, a film and television dubbing centre, StarTimes Broadcast Station, Digital TV research and development centre. 

Its rival MultiChoice has also invested Sh3 billion to set up a facility for generating programmes that are relevant to the company’s East African audience. Half of this investment has gone towards funding local content.

The TV firms’ investment in local content production follows a recent announcement by the government that it intends to raise the requirement for local content broadcast by media houses to 60 per cent from the current 40 per cent.

This, together with the planned transition to digital broadcasting later this year, means broadcasters must invest heavily in local production infrastructure to remain in business.

The clip and dubbing centre will enable Chinese content be translated into local languages such as Kiswahili and into English, and at the same time the local programmes be translated into Chinese.