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UNPACKING e.tv’s NEW CHANNELS

Head of Channels at e.tv, Monde Twala, speaks on the launch of a TV bouquet featuring four brand new channels, set to go live on 15 October.

The introduction of e.tv’s four new free-to-air channels has upped the stakes in the local television scene, with pay TV platforms Multichoice, Top TV and the public broadcaster now facing serious competition. Having launched the channels in a competitive environment, e.tv will have to ensure it delivers high quality content and sustains these new offerings.

Speaking on e.tv’s strategy, Twala said a considerable amount of market research was conducted to determine what consumers needed.

“We looked at the market, where the gaps are in terms of what would appeal to the majority of local viewers who are already consuming our content. The approach we have taken is to cater for the key segments of the market. We spoke to people and held focus groups.

“We did all this research to find out what works and what people want to see and we came back and started juggling to see how we can deliver on that brand promise,” he explained.

According to Twala, it was a natural progression to add more channels to e.tv’s existing bouquet.

“If you look at e.tv, we are a rainbow child, having been born at the dawn of our democracy. That is at the core of our spirit as a brand. Therefore our brand promise has to emulate that. The market is changing and the country is changing so it’s good to then reflect that change. That is how we have really segmented the channels.”

He added that a lot of thought went into the creation of each channel. ”We do movies well – that was an extension of our e.tv strategy. The eKasi+ brand is also an extension of our current content. In the last three to four years we’ve invested a lot more in local content. Our budget has increased and that is because the market demands it.

“With the kids channel, we’ve always been a family channel and with us doing two hours a day on e.tv, we now thought, let’s provide a ‘babysitter’ and entrench our brand to the younger market,” he said.

“What is noteworthy about the growth that comes with a multi-channel digital platform is that you can also explore alternative content which will give insight and educate our market. eAfrica+ is really a window into Africa. We’ve been travelling, we’ve seen the growth of east African and west African content. It will become a truly pan-African channel which we hope to export to the rest of the world.”

Former SABC board member Suzanne Vos was quoted in Business Day saying that although the channels were a game changer for local television, it remained to be seen whether they would be sustainable without a sports channel.

Twala commented that e.tv is busy with a business model to cater to sport-loving audiences.

“We’ll have sport in part. It did come up in our research and we know it is consumed massively in South Africa. We are busy with a model and strategy on how to handle sports. But the challenge is that sports rights are expensive and generally go to pay TV, so it locks us out as a free-to-air channel. What I’ve noticed is that there is more of a focus on general sports and less on niche, so that is where we’re going to try and fit in.”

Speaking on the percentage of local content featured on the channels, Twala said eKasi+ had the majority with 80%, eMovies+ had 40%, while eAfrica+ and eToonz+ featured almost 100% imported content.

“Over time the presence of these channels will inspire a business model for the local sector to start producing more content for those channels. It’s up to the local sector to come up with innovation and supply. These are the early days and this is phase one of our launch. Two years down the line it will be a completely different landscape.”

Opposition

There have been significant moves in the television industry recently, with the SABC and Mutichoice signing a five-year contract in July covering content and broadcast systems. The contract dictates that Multichoice will pay SABC R553 million to air its 24-hour news channel, launch an entertainment channel, and allow Multichoice to broadcast national events such as state funerals.

Twala says their strategy is set on providing more choice to audiences that can’t afford pay TV.

“Other broadcasters have different strategies and approaches to the industry. My comment is that we need to bear in mind that South Africa has limited spend and [that] all can’t afford to pay additional cash for entertainment.

“The whole digital environment means more competition and the person who should win, ultimately, is the consumer. Competition is inevitable in any free economy. This company is built on free choice and diversity, and not everyone will be happy. For us, it’s about creating a healthy environment for competition…at the end of the day consumer must win.”

When asked whether e.tv is intimidated by the Multichoice-SABC deal, Twala explained that the channel’s track record speaks for itself. With 15 years of experience, e.tv is up for the challenge and dedicated to delivering on its mandate, said Twala.

“In TV, you are as good as your last production. You are not as good as what you think you are. We approach competition in the same way. The more competition there is, the more innovative the market becomes. There will always be more players and we should embrace that. What’s important is creating a new environment for new players to come in.”

Getting set up

To get access to e.tv’s new channels you need to buy a set top box and satellite decoder from local retailers. The once-off cost including installation is set at just over R1500. Besides e.tv channels there are 11 more channels featured as part of the bouquet. Set top boxes have been available since 30 September.

Source: Destiny.com – Bernice Maune