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Cable TV comes to Kenya.

Kenya's ardent TV viewers are being courted by a new Television channel run by Cable Network Television (CTN).

The newly incorporated Kenyan company, CTN draws programmes from satellite using dish antenna, decodes them and passes them through CTN cable stations to the subscribers. CTN has already signed an agreement with the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) to run its cables along side KPLC's electricity cables.

CTN is the first cable network in the country and will prove stiff competition to its two rivals - Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and Kenya Television Network (KTN). CTN will offer seven channels of round the clock transmissions, constituting a total of 168 hours of entertainment. KTN also started by offering programmes round the clock from the US based Cable News Network and programmes from MTV Europe which included Club MTV, The Braun European Top 10, MTV's Greatest Hits, the US Top 20 Countdown and a series of classic films from MGM.

However, MTV Europe stopped its programmes in 1992 and apart from the CNN programmes, KTN no longer has much to offer in the way of entertainment.

It is not yet clear why KTN has not implemented its pay-as-you watch programming. It currently derives its income from advertisements although it was meant to be subscriber based.

The Johannesburg based Electronic Media Network (M-NET) was to enter into a joint venture with KTN in 1992 but the deal did not go through possibly because KTN could not raise 50% of the capital required - estimated at Kshs200m. For the moment KTN only broadcasts its programme to Nairobi and the surrounding areas.

Kenya Broadcasting Corporation on the other hand, previously short of programmes, has vastly improved, increasing its transmission hours from eight to 12. Its new managing director Philip Okundi revealed that it too will broadcast round the clock by January 1995. It is state owned and derives its income from advertisements.

According to the Managing Director of CTN, Mohamed Nensey, the company has invested over Kshs50m in its launch to date, and plans to increase investments to Kshs150m within the next 10 to 12 months.

Nensey revealed that the entire shareholding of CTN is held by Australian investors and a sister company, Bluechip Holdings. Bluechip Holdings has invested in various sectors of the economy such as the Export Processing Zone (EPZ), the dairy sector, construction, textile industry and tourism.

Mr Nensey added that CTN and Bluechip intend to invest over Kshs500m in the network in the near future.

The new channel predominantly transmits musical entertainment, movies, sports news and serials. Subscribers pay Kshs9000 for installation of the cable, which also cover equipment, followed by a monthly fee of Ksh800.

"CTN is currently the cheapest entertainment station in the country", claims Nensey. "The rates are affordable and fairly low when compared to hiring video cassettes or the purchase of a satellite dish. A survey conducted by the company also shows that advertising rates charged by other media are higher for the ordinary businessman and that is why CTN's policy is to keep rates to the bare minimum", adds Nensey.

Although the television business is uncertain, especially in developing countries, Nensey is optimistic that his company will succeed where others have failed. He argues that this is due to Kenya's position as one of the few African countries that have remained stable for a long time. "We believe this is a crucial factor as far as attracting foreign investment is concerned", he said.

A number of incentives have been provided in different sectors of the country's economy in a bid to lure more foreign investment. The information and entertainment sectors will be critical as the economy further opens up.

Foreign investors, Nensey said, should be given all the support possible since their presence has an impact on employment creation and economic growth.

Barely a month after its launch, the new station has 600 subscribers and its

technicians are working round the clock to ensure that all those who have applied receive the cables as quickly as possible. But many viewers have applied and are still waiting. "Demand is far outstripping our ability to supply equipment", said one.

CTN brings the number of TV stations in Kenya to three, and the future of the industry looks promising. A number of new stations have been proposed and it will not be long before yet another station is operational. Stellagraphic LTD, owned by the media mogul, Hilary Ngweno, has plans to launch a new station to be known as Stellascope TV.

Already the company's new broadcasting house is complete, although it is not yet clear why the government is unwilling to issue the company with a licence.
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Title Annotation:Cable Network Television
Publication:African Business
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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