Kenya pay-TV firms set to feel the heat of Netflix launch


A man watches Netflix content on a laptop and desktop. PHOTO | BERND VON

Kenya’s pay-TV market is set feel the competitive heat of US-based streaming service Netflix, an on-demand service that transmits shows via Internet-enabled devices.

Netflix offers unlimited access to movies, documentaries and series at monthly rates of between Sh815 and Sh1,222, a significantly lower fee than the rate cards of Kenyan pay-TV firms Wananchi Group and MultiChoice.

The two firms operate Zuku and DSTV respectively.

Netflix, whose high uptake in the US has hit audience ratings and slashed advertising revenues for cable and satellite channels, already has about 74 million subscribers mainly in the US and Europe.

Wananchi Group and MultiChoice will be wary of the US company whose Wednesday’s launch of operations in 130 countries including Kenya elicited excitement on social media.

Safaricom’s planned entry into the Kenyan pay television space will also require a strategy rethink if the telco is to compete with the globally established firm.

“We will add more to the catalogue in Kenya as the service grows in popularity and we better understand what our members want to watch in each region,” Netflix told the Business Daily in an email.

The eight-year-old streaming firm offers content on smartphones, tablets, computers, television sets and game consoles; releasing new content simultaneously to users across the globe.

Subscribers who pay higher monthly fees are entitled to improved viewing benefits such as being able to watch high definition content on more than one device using the same account.

Some popular shows on Netflix include Narcos, Sense8 and Making A Murderer among several others.

“We look to offer a robust mix of titles for Kenyans. Drama, action, comedy, documentaries, TV shows and movies for kids -- all the stuff people love to watch, personalised for them.”

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DSTV, which in September increased its bouquet costs by up to 15 per cent to charge between Sh1,050 and Sh9,400 a month, could see Netflix challenge its customer base. The South Africa-based broadcaster is popular in Kenya due to its exclusive rights to the English Premier League.

Wananchi Group, which provides Internet, pay-TV and telephone services under the Zuku “Triple Play” banner, will also be watching Netlix’s forays into the local market closely.

Zuku in September launched a new package that allows users to subscribe for Internet and telephone services, Internet and pay television or a combination of the three.

The service, dubbed Zuku Infinite, goes for between Sh1,199 and Sh9,799.

This unbundling could work in Zuku’s favour and its rival Jamii Telecom’s whose Jamii Faiba dominates the Internet at home market segment with 7,486 customers.

“We have prepared the network for the influx of customers that believe in the reliability of Zuku fiber. Netflix users can count on Zuku’s broadband to complete their experience,” said Santiago Benedit, Wananchi’s group chief executive.

DSTV did not respond to our queries by the time of going to press.

Safaricom in August applied for a broadcasting licence, signalling its intention to enter the Internet broadcast space.