It's France Vs China As StarTimes Joins West Africa's TV Market
Players in the pay-tv industry in Africa see a tug of war for media supremacy between France and China through the Canal + and Startimes respectively.
It was observed that a few months after Chinese media company StarTimes entered Ivory Coast’s pay-TV market two years ago, Canal+ operated by France’s Vivendi SA reduced the cost of its decoder by a third.
The West African region is the fastest-growing pay-TV market worldwide with a forecast of 41 million households in five years, according to the London-based Digital TV Research. With the entrance of the likes of Startimes and quicker access to broadband and low-cost mobile data, giants like Canal+ and Multichoice's DSTV have been forced to reduce their subscription costs and offer locally produced content to remain in the market.
Simon Murray, Digital TV Research founder, said: "For a while, Canal+ enjoyed ample growth in francophone Africa, while DSTV gained considerable profits from English-speaking countries like there was some gentleman’s agreement between both giant firms. Well, that has come to an end because a more ambitious StarTimes have come to the market."
StarTimes entrance came as Canal+ re-strategised and began adding African focused channels to its bouquets. It is now developing and producing local contents specifically for African audiences rather than in import French TV programs for expatriates and wealthy customers. In 2014, it launched A+, an Africa-focused channel based in Abidjan.
That strategy has paid off because according to A+ Managing Director, Damiano Malchiodi, “The market has changed because there were high expectations of African viewers to showcase what’s happening on the continent.
Speaking at an interview, Zou Lu, Head of StarTimes for French-speaking Africa said: “Ivory Coast is an attractive market with high purchasing power and meeting their needs is quite a task as the people are demanding more high-quality contents."
With a population of 22 million people in Ivory Coast, of which about 60 per cent is younger than 25 years, the competition between the pay-TV channels has been fierce.