Pay tv service provider, StarTimes, is bullish of edging above competitors to take the biggest pie in the run up to the Switch off. Smart Investor caught up with its CEO, LEO LEE at his corner office, where he cleared on a few glitches that threatened its operations. Here are the excerpts.
1. Uncertainty period over Switch off to digital tv platform has ended, how is StarTimes prepared over the next three months?
Our sensitization campaigns continue within the 15 towns and their environs that our signal is currently available in which represents over 70 percent coverage across the country. The reception has been fantastic and as we eye 90 percent signal coverage by the end of the year, we will be intensifying the same to further boost our popularity as the most affordable digital television provider in the country.
2. How do you plan to deal with an incriminating image over distribution of obsolete decoders by your subsidiary in Uganda?
Our Uganda subsidiary has put the record straight on this matter. With the migration in Uganda having started earlier than Kenya DVB T1 decoders were the ones available in the market. DVB T2 is a new technology and will progressively be adopted by most countries as consumers embrace the same. The decoders that were sold before the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) announced their phase out are still operational and legal. Unlike Kenya which decided to go with the DVB T2 technology from the start of the migration process, it is only recently that UCC said Uganda would adapt DVB-T2 decoders.
3. Free to Air Channels provision, what is the update in terms of engagement with Media Owners in Kenya?
Heightened negotiations between the said media owners and StarTimes are ongoing and we are confident that very soon, the contentious issues will be ironed out.
4. Has the plug off of Local channels lowered consumer confidence on your television service?
We have not seen a significant shift in consumer confidence mainly because most of the local channels are still available on the platform, apart from the few that have withdrawn, viewers are still enjoying the ones available in addition to other premium international channels. We are however grateful that our subscribers have demonstrated exemplary understanding and patience towards the same.
5. Do you think it will heavily impact on your business, bearing in mind period between now and official commencement of digital broadcasting just around the corner?
We do not envisage a negative impact given that for the period we have been in business we have seen great confidence in our products and service. Given that the withdrawal of the channels is not a technical problem on the part of StarTimes we believe public goodwill is still intact and will be boosted once the contentious issues are ironed out.
We intend to comply with what the regulator advises as the way forward. Our goal is to package the best content to our subscribers.
With our programming being tailored for the whole family viewing we ensure that that the packaging suits from the young to adults through sports, documentaries, gospel content, music, drama, soaps and kids channels this ensures that there is something for everyone at home.
This explains our fast growth in the Kenyan market complemented by affordability which has seen many Kenyans warm up to our digital television programming. Very soon we will also be boosting our content further with the introduction of dedicated channel with local content and world’s most watched NBA channel.
We are impressed with the brand’s steady growth so far, StarTimes currently has more subscribers than any other Pay TV player in the country who are spread across the 15 towns in the country that our signal is currently available in which include Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Meru, Embu, Karatina, Malindi, Kakamega, Webuye, Kitale, Bungoma, Eldoret, Nyeri, Kisii and Nakuru.
Being an international company with 9.5 million subscribers globally, 2.5 million of whom are in Africa we intend to further grow these numbers during the migration period. With the market flooded by different decoders some of which quality cannot be guaranteed, StarTimes will be a trusted brand that intends to play a key role in facilitating the migration.