A woman sitting on the back seat of one of Addis Abeba’s iconic 12-seater blue taxi buses, was concernedly talking through her phone to someone who seemed to be a family member.
“I want you to record Tikur Fiker; I don’t want to miss anything, not even a word,” she cursed in the slow moving traffic, as she made her request clear for the person on the other end of the phone.
She was referring to a TV series aired on an Amharic entertainment channel, which started broadcasting a few months ago.
Most of the people in the overloaded taxi smirked in reaction to the woman’s conversation. One or two even let out a mild smile. Then, the smile of the passengers in the taxi suddenly turned into a heated conversation about the handful of new privately owned Amharic satellite television channels, which appeared back-to-back in a matter of few months earlier this year.
Six years ago, the Amharic language satellite TV channels were limited, as there was only one privately owned TV broadcaster, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Service (EBS). EBS broadcasts its programmes from the United States, with shows that are produced both through correspondents within Ethiopia and from its headquarters.
The year 2016 brought the audience four new channels: Nahoo, Ethiopian News Network (ENN), Kana and JTV.
“I love movies, fashion and entertainment programmes all together,” said Edidya Hailu, 24, sitting on a small traditional three legged chair, or Duka, at the gates of her house, while listening to a song blaring out from her TV. “I used to watch the foreign channels only, but now I can entertain myself with these new Amharic channels.”
She smiled broadly and flipped her hand in delight.
“I’m telling you, it feels great to have alternatives,” she added.
After many years of silence with regards new private satellite television channels, Nahoo TV was the first to break the dormancy of the industry in April 2016.
Nahoo Satellite TV is based in Kenya and has its business connection to Ethiopia through TUBA Media Plc – an agent that came about for the purpose of making and broadcasting television programmes, producing documentaries and making adverts. The channel signed the agreement with the Kenya-based Nahoo LLC to develop the media, based on Tuba’s interest to exploit its potential for journalism, depicting the country’s culture in its programmes.
“It was just using an opportunity that presented itself that led us to turning out our idea of an Ethiopian cultured media in to a reality,” Melaku Ali, Deputy CEO of Nahoo, told . “We get interested investors from Kenya, where we believe that it has more advanced technology than Ethiopia.”
It was in 2013 that the channel with its motto of ‘Now is the Time’ started the process to opening the station.
All the private-owned channels in the country obtained the frequency for transmission from NileSat.
Nahoo, as a satellite TV channel, does not have any license or registration certification from the Ethiopia Broadcasting Authority (EBA), and indeed it did not require one, according to Melaku. It only has the authorisation, via TUBA Media, to be a media agent from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The Authority’s right is limited to overseeing the channel programme content in case it breaches conditions in the Broadcasting Proclamation,” said Melaku.
EBA Public Relations Head, Workeneh Taffa, confirms Melaku’s statement, saying that the Authority do not have any right either to license the broadcasting of foreign-based satellite television channels or to shut them down. They are companies that are established under another country’s law.
The Broadcasting Authority’s directive declares that any media service, including print, broadcast, advertising or any other programme producer that prepares content within the country must acquire certification for content production. To obtain this, they must forward a proposal of the programme and the company’s registration from the Trade Bureau so as to be approved by the entity.
Workeneh also mentioned that the proclamation lists the license for satellite television as one of the categories the authority can issue, but this is only for nationwide and region wide transmitting broadcasters. Registered by the Authority, Ethiopia has eight analogue terrestrial television stations and nine satellite television stations, but no private channel is registered under it.
Kana Television, which is facing some controversy with Ethiopian filmmakers due to the fact that it airs translated and dubbed movies from other countries, is another channel with no registration or license from the Authority. With its HQ in Dubai, it has a license from the EBA for the production of translated and dubbed movies.
The channel has a commercial representative office through a local partner, BeMedia Plc, which does have registration from the Authority.
Despite the nature on their license and registration, and their foreign headquarters, these two channels appear to have received mixed reactions from their audience, and have been handling advertising in a distant fashion.
Nahoo, with 19 programmes focused on different issues, including drama, comedy shows, psychology, medical talk shows, entertainment news and construction, transmits six to seven hours of programmes a day, with music played the rest of the time.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love entertainment, but I am an old-fashioned person,” said Samuel Surafel, 40, explaining how he likes Nahoo for its variety of content. “I would like the media I choose to feed me information – a little window that shows me what is happening in other parts of the country.”
The channel has 28 employees, including journalists, technical staff and marketing personal.
Kana provided its staff with extensive training in dubbing and information technology. It airs 10 translated and dubbed TV series.
These channels have advertising packages whereby the cost varies at day and night time, as well as on weekdays and at weekends.
The minimum payment a second stands at 65Br, while the maximum stands at 218Br for Kana, while Nahoo’s offer is 120Br a second, with a discount from 5pc to 20pc, depending on the number of adverts the companies want to release on the channel.
Adverts that are transmitted 10 times a week at different times get the maximum discount. Currently, the channel price is the same for all programmes.
“There are limited media outlet options for companies to advertise their products and services in Ethiopia,” said Fitsum Kelilie, brand manager for Habesha Beer.
He welcomes the introduction of more TV channels as a positive development, not just for the entertainment aspect but also for promotion. He believes that the more channels there are, the more options promoters will have to run their ad campaigns. Companies that want their products and services advertised will have alternative channels in terms of price. Moreover, they can run demographically targeted ads to their customers based on gender, age and socio-economic background, as these channels air target-group specific shows.
Serawit Fekere, who has been in the advertising business for over two decades, agrees with this view.
Accordingly, the first thing that is considered to take a channel as a medium for an ad campaign is its acceptability and viewership within the targeted potential buyer the company sets. What follows is the number of programmes that are enjoyed and frequently viewed, which is set as a perfect time for advertisements, making the payment per second and any incentives the concern of companies at last.
“When we first came, since there was only one other private television channel besides us, we expected to take 50pc of the advertisement market share,” said Melaku. “But that didn’t happen and now we cut down our expectations by half.”
Ethiopia Broadcast Corporation (EBC), the state-owned television channel that broadcasts both in nationwide territorial transmission and terrestrial satellite, on the other hand, states that the coming of these new channels has not affected its advertising business. In the 11 months of this year, it managed to make over 200 million Br from advertising – a five percent increase over what was planned.
“I do not believe the existence of this private television channels will affect our advertisement income in anyway,” said EBC promotions and marketing development head, Seifu Alemseged.
However, an advertiser that works with the new private-owned channels, stated that their potential must not be underestimated, as they come with new programmes that have a much higher quality in terms of production and have already amassed a large following of fans in just a few months.
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