Uganda DVB-T2: Uganda pay-TVs jockey for the digital switch

Uganda DVB-T2

Uganda DVB-T2 KAMPALA, Uganda – Recently Chinese pay television company,  StarTimes, introduced what is arguably the cheapest decoder and subscription bouquet on the market. Dubbed  ‘Lumbasa’, StarTimes is aiming to latch onto the digital migration campaign culminating in the analog transmission switch-off date of June 30th, 2015. While the campaign has a sensitization element to have people prepare for the switch-off, the company also wants to lure television viewers onto their network with cheap pricing of devices and services. StarTimes introduced a new HD decoder of DVB-T2 technology called StarTimes Light at a cost of Ush8000 with an initial subscription of Ush41,500 from which you can choose your favorite bouquet for your monthly subscription. They also introduced a new bouquet called Nova which enables their customers to pay Ush200 per day and Ush6000 a month. It comes with ten local channels and seven other foreign channels.

On paper, anyone with a television set at home can afford this price. For example with your new StarTimes Light decoder and your Ush41,500 initial subscription, when you choose Nova as your bouquet you get seven months of subscription, 2.5 months for the Basic bouquet, 5 weeks for the Classic bouquet, and 25 days for a Unique bouquet. To enrich their message, they went to the lower segment of the market and reached out to boda-boda riders by partnering with Kampala Metropolitan Boda-Boda Association (KAMBA) to promote digital migration. They say they will go to other lower people in different businesses and setting to entice them to migrate.

Migration from analog to digital terrestrial broadcasting was agreed to under the United Nations (UN) umbrella with a deadline of June 2015. Aldrine Nsubuga the marketing director of StarTimes said the migration is taking place across the whole world with comes countries already through with the process. “Any country or its people who will not have migrated to digital after 2015 will not have any recourse to complain. It will be game over. That’s why government must ensure that it happens and the process has already started,” Nsubuga stated.

When the deadline day comes television viewers will need to have Free To Air (FTA) Set Top Boxes (STB) being sold by independent private vendors or a decoder from pay television service providers for the Tv to have reception. The availability of free-to-air decoders’ means that viewers can get better quality pictures and sound which has been the most selling point alongside quality programming for pay televisions without paying a monthly subscription fee.

While Pay televisions pay a monthly subscription fee, because of digital migration, viewers using free-to-air decoders will only incur the cost of the decoder and enjoy quality viewing without any payments. This means that pay televisions will have to work extra hard to get people onto their networks if they are to continue functioning profitably and normally. In an interview, Tina Wamala the public relations officer of Multichoice Uganda explained that as service providers they are not looking at FTA as direct competitors because their services are discretionary meaning a person must willingly pay for them if they want to access their programming “This decision is based on the attractiveness of the content we have purchased, packaged or produced and made available for sale.

We do not envisage they (FTA) will have a significant effect on our business because we are serving two completely different markets. Trans-African Container Transport Limited, Syscorp International Limited, Brivid Uganda Limited, Icomsys Africa Limited, Widestar Digital (U) Limited, and eWorld Technologies Limited are the firms that were approved by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to vend the Free-to-Air Set Top Boxes (STBs) or Decoders for Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting in Uganda. In an interview, Steven Opeitum of Syscorp International Limited said a Free-to-Air Set Top Box is sold at Ushs200,000 while Suresha Chourappa of Icomsys Africa Limited was hesitant to mention the price of the STBs.

While StarTimes sells their cheapest decoder at Ushs41, 500 plus a subscription of about seven months, Multichoice through their GoTv brand sells theirs at Ushs60,000 as their cheapest, prices that are aimed at being affordable to the ordinary people. Whereas the prices for PayTvs look enticing and low, in the long run, because of the monthly subscription, they become a burden to the user, and with the improving quality of pictures and sound thanks to the migration, it will be inevitable for the viewer’s not to buy PayTv decoders to avoid costs. “We don’t envisage making changes to our pricing structure based on what our competitors are doing this would be commercial suicide, you must remember at the end of the day we are a business with the twin objectives of making a profit and providing a high-quality product which is only possible if we buy and package high-quality content and invest in the broadcast infrastructure needed, this costs money,” Wamala said of their pricing.

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