In Kenya, the digital migration wars are roiling. As the ITU mandated deadline for migration from analogue television broadcasting technologies to the more efficient digital systems elapses, a momentous court battle is raging between the industry regulator, the Communications Authority of Kenya, CA, and the three largest terrestrial broadcast networks in Kenya. Senior Counsel Paul Muite and a battery of awe-inspiring laywers are pitted against the regulaor in various courtrooms, from the High Court all the way to the Supreme Court.
Whereas I feel for the broadcasters in their battle against a hard-tackling regulator, I am not particularly perturbed by the possible outcomes. You see, I migrated from analogue to digital, at a household level, in May 2009. Five and a half years ago, as I write this. For those years, I have paid subscriptions to MultiChoice Kenya, for their lowest-priced satellite bouquet. That serves my need for news briefs, a bit of live sport and quite an array of dated culture shows - not being a real television buff.
However, with the recent transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting technology, their offerings on GOtv have shifted my allegiances. For a slightly lower fee, I have access to seven or more channels that were previously unavailable to me. CNN, MTV Base, Sony Entertainment, Sony Max, one or other of those Nigerian movie channels and an Events Channel that has recently been broadcasting the African Cup of Nations extravaganza in Equatorial Guinea. I might not receive the RAI channel, Bloomberg, NDTV or the debased CNBC Africa, but I am fine, thank you.
The decorder allows me to view quite a number of local free to air channels that are not available on the satellite platform. That is a huge value proposition for me. As a message to MultiChoice? Don't miss me too much on satellite, because I am fully grounded at home on DTB.
Now for an appeal: satellite broadcasting required a smartcard in the decorders as a buffer to signal misappropriation by clients. The new terrestrial technology, without smartcards, should be cheaper for all of us. Why, wouldn't MultiChoice consider winning the decorder wars in Kenya, by placing all the premium content channels on GOtv, so as to reach a bigger market, with lower costs both for themselves and the clients?
I would not mind a super dose of live sport and headline cinema, at a lower cost. After all, Kenyans are known to love buying things in small quantities, only more often. As a rational consumer of television, I hedge my bets with GOtv, and have given up on exclusive satellite feeds.