ZIMBABWE Newspapers (1980) Ltd last week took a giant step towards becoming the first fully integrated media house in the country.
The company got its content distribution licence, which enables Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) to fully take off and compete with giants in the billion-dollar television industry.
This follows the company’s successful entry into broadcasting six years ago through Star FM, followed by several other radio stations.
The arena ZTN has entered has major players like Netflix and Amazon, free-to-air decoders, DStv and Kwese TV, which recently acquired shares in iflix Africa.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail Society last week, Zimpapers Group CEO Mr Pikirayi Deketeke was bullish about ZTN’s prospects.
“Our forte is content. In terms of reputation and credibility, no one can beat us,” declared Mr Deketekete.
“Traditionally we are a print company. We have been in the industry for over 100 years then we started migrating to radio over the last five, six years.
“We put a footprint into radio. The next frontier was television because there are more eyes glued on television than there are on newspapers.
“So, in order to get that story told in a different and more extensive way that is relevant to our local communities, Zimpapers had to be in that space, to continue to interact with the audiences that are demanding more from their media companies,” he said.
Mr Deketekete said despite the competition from global giants and social media, this was the most opportune moment for ZTN to take off.
“We are really excited about this opportunity and the avenues that it brings in terms of that interaction with the audiences. I think this is the most opportune time because there is a high demand for authentic, genuine and good quality content that audiences are prepared to pay for.
“Anyone can go behind the camera and start producing stuff and people will have a laugh, but at the end of the day it’s a business proposition; and also, people want truth, they want entertainment and content that tells them about their society and what is happening around them.
“As Zimpapers we are able to do that and we believe that our audiences will be able to pay a premium for it.”
The television industry has massive potential and ZTN is already targeting millions of viewers with various affordable content products.
Global streaming brands that include Netflix and Amazon have grown exponentially in recent times and Zimpapers, because of its strength in content production, is set to get a slice of the cake.
Last month, Netflix reported that they had added 7,4 million subscribers in the first three months of 2018, taking the total subscriber base to 125 million. The company projects an additional 6,2 million subscribers in the next quarter.
Amazon Prime, which already has over 100 million subscribers, is also investing heavily in content. The company is making moves into sports and has acquired the exclusive British television rights to the ATP World Tour beginning next year after outbidding Sky Sports.
In this complicated, capital intensive but highly profitable industry — it is anyone’s game.
MultiChoice South Africa’s CEO Calvo Mawela recently said they lost over 100 000 DStv Premium subscribers in the last financial year.
Speaking to The Sunday Mail Society, MultiChoice Zimbabwe PR and publicity manager Elizabeth Dziva downplayed the challenge posed by streaming platforms.
“The challenge for over-the-top offerings like Netflix in Africa is cost and accessibility because you can’t watch long-play streaming video over a mobile network because of the expense,” said Dziva.
“There is a window of opportunity in most territories that will take time to penetrate and it’s something we have to compete with.”
With competition from both the internet and new players coming on board, DStv has lately been dancing around with their packages and pricing.
“By any standard, DStv products are competitively priced, especially when one acknowledges that in Zimbabwe the entry level for DStv services is the DStv Lite package, at US$7 a month.
“In October 2016, we reduced our prices and added another six great entertainment channels to the Compact Plus bouquet. We introduced ‘no price increase’ for local customers on our packages, a recognition that Zimbabweans have been facing economic challenges and are in need of support by service providers.”
On the other hand, Kwese TV has introduced the Kwese Play platform. Kwese Play is a Roku-powered streaming box, which gives viewers access to over 100 streaming channels, including Netflix.
Kwese also acquired a significant stake in iflix Africa, which is a streaming platform offering both African and global series and movies. All these manoeuvres by Zimpapers, DStv and Kwese TV among many others, shows that there is an awareness of what television will look like in the near future. With all these developments coming to play, television fanatics are certainly going to benefit immensely as this offers them variety and affordable products.