The Chinese multinational company, StarTimes, begun direct paid broadcast satellite service, making it the other player in the market besides DStv.
Bridgetech Broadcasting & Media Plc, the local exclusive agent of StarTimes, began selling subscriptions to customers last week. StarTimes is based in Beijing and was established in 1988.
Bridgetech obtained a license from the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA) two years ago.
“We have had to go through a process of discussions with StarTimes and tiresome eventualities of having to familiarise them with Ethiopia’s media laws and training of staffs and support teams,” says Biruk Gebru, general manager of Bridgetech. “The Pay-Tv market is untapped in Ethiopia.”
BridgeTech is owned by Yeshiwas Shibabaw, an exclusive agent to Lenovo computers and technologies in Ethiopia and owner of Bridgetech Plc, an import-export company established in 1997.
Star Times, which has a strong market presence in Africa, had been in a negotiation with the Ethiopian Football Federation back in June 2017 after a meeting held in Ghana. However, the Chinese company failed to submit details of its proposal and gave no response about its plans, according to Essayas Tafesse, marketing director at the Federation.
“We, StarTimes and Bridgetech, had a hard time communicating with the Federation,” says Biruk. “But we still have the desire to get involved.”
BridgeTech had good sales of subscriptions on the first day of the 2018 World Cup held in Russia, June 14, 2018. Over 100 and more consumers visit their offices every day since then, according to Mekdes Mekonen, marketing manager at Bridgetech.
“The World Cup is an excellent time to begin selling subscription packages,” claims Biruk.
Bridgetech offers “smart” and “super” packages, ranging from 60 dollars to 70 dollars for three-month subscription rates. After three months, the packages diversify into categories for kids, television shows and movies, and news networks.
Multichoice Ethiopia positively welcomes the new company.
“We are the pioneers, but we accept competition as long as it is healthy,” says Metasebia Abayneh, deputy general manager of Multichoice Ethiopia. “We have a strong brand presence in Ethiopia.”
Exclusive deals with the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League and the Spanish La Liga are owned by Multichoice Africa, according to Metasebia.
StarTimes, however, has no such rights unless for the German League, a.k.a Bundes Liga.
MultiChoice Ethiopia is managed by Gelila G/Michael and is a franchise of Multichoice Africa. It currently has over 300 agents and retailers. It offers over 115 channels in various packages ranging from eight to 80 dollar monthly fees. DStv has been the sole subscription television service for the past 18 years.
“We will do strict follow-ups on Pay-Tv subscription providers, the penalty of which could be as severe as revocation of licences,” Mulugeta Sisay, the Authority’s deputy director, told Fortune.
This is a globalised world and Ethiopia is no exception to it, says Asemahegn Asres, a lecturer at the Addis Abeba University’s School of Journalism & Communications for nearly a decade.
“It will create competition and relieve us from local television stations with poor content and production capacity,” he says. “But given affordability, the evolution from free broadcasting services to subscription ones will take a long time.”
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