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Top media firms to stir market with free to air digital boxes

NMG board chairman Wilfred Kiboro said the devices will be sold at a one-off price of between Sh2,000 and Sh2,500. PHOTO | FILE
NMG board chairman Wilfred Kiboro said the devices will be sold at a one-off price of between Sh2,000 and Sh2,500. PHOTO | FILE 

A consortium made up of Kenya’s three leading media houses has placed orders to import digital TV set-top boxes that are set to retail for as low as Sh2,000 each.

The Internet-ready set-top boxes are expected to arrive in the country in the next three weeks.

The Nation Media Group (NMG), Royal Media Services (RMS) and Standard Group (SG) have placed orders for 150,000 of the devices, which are set to be the cheapest free-to-air digital converters in the market.

“These set-top boxes will be quite different from what is already there in the market. The devices will be sold at a one-off price of between Sh2,000 and Sh2,500,” said the NMG board chairman Wilfred Kiboro on Monday.

The three companies, under the Africa Digital Network (ADN) consortium, also disclosed that a million more of the devices are expected end of March.

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ADN says the customised set-top boxes will allow consumers to access the consortium’s free-to-air channels and also access add-ons such as Internet services.

ADN’s set-top boxes are expected to shake up the Kenyan television space at a time when broadcasting is shifting from analogue to digital signals by the global deadline of June this year.

Together, the consortium dominates Kenya’s media scene, controlling 87 per cent TV market share and 80 per cent radio audiences.

ADN is currently awaiting a Supreme Court hearing on its application for more frequencies and more time to import the set-top boxes and set up the digital broadcasting infrastructure.

The three media houses were awarded a digital frequency for Nairobi on December 15, just 16 days away from the earlier migration deadline set by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) for Nairobi and its environs.

ADN’s lawyers argued that two weeks was insufficient for their clients to purchase and instal transmitters since the equipment can only be tailor-made once a frequency is awarded.

The CA had set December 31, 2014 as the switch-off date and had given the media houses a licence to carry their own content on one frequency instead of four, like it has done with the other digital broadcasting licensees.

The media houses added that it was not possible to purchase, market and distribute their set-top boxes by the end-of-year deadline, hence the application in court to extend it.

The frequency allows the three media houses to only broadcast their content, as opposed to other licensees that are allowed to air third-party programmes at a fee.

Only Signet, a subsidiary of State broadcaster KBC, and Chinese firm Pan African Group — which have been awarded 82 per cent of the frequencies across the country — have all the required licences for the migration.

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