For years, only two satellite TV packages have been commercialized in Africa: DStv Multichoice for English-language channels and CanalSat Horizons for the French part. Both these packages are, in fact, controlled by the same French holding company: Canal+. Both are quite expensive and out of reach of most African wallets.
Recently, smaller TV packages have tried to emerge with a cheaper offer, especially in the English speaking countries: Trend TV and HiTV are two attempts originating from Nigeria, Free2Air from South Africa, and last year Ghana’s Joy FM’s holding company tried to launch its own package, with little success.
Generally, the cheaper packages occupy only one satellite “transponder” (frequency) for obvious economical reasons, considering the fact that renting satellite capacity (or bandwidth) is a huge investment for a starting business. This also means that the package will only broadcast 8 to 10 channels, although reception equipment and installation are just as expensive for them as it is for DStv. Besides, these new operators can hardly rival with DStv in terms of content.
Films and sports are distributed on a multi-yearly exclusivity basis, so only news, documentaries and music are left to be offered, which are not the main programmes for which people will want to subscribe to satellite TV. DStv, outside of South Africa, offers up to 50 TV channels, a great number of radio stations and has a range of regional pricing options.
Although targets are not quite the same, it is unlikely smaller packages can reach economical viability without the attractiveness of football matches or Hollywood blockbusters.
Maybe African entrepreneurs should turn to Canal+’s European competitors for help — like Robert Murdoch’s SKY TV from the UK, as it seems obvious that there is still room for new channels meeting the demands and means of millions of Africans craving for more quality channels.