Pay TV provider Zuku has said it will be head to court to challenge the anti-competition tendencies in the broadcasting sector over the exclusive rights held by Multichoice relating to content.
The exclusive holding of rights by DSTV Kenya, partly owned by the government, has seen many television stations remain unattractive especially to football lovers as the company has exclusivity on broadcasts relating to the English premier league (EPL) that has a large following in Kenya.
Wananchi group which owns Zuku argues that SuperSport which owns the rights was selling EPL rights to itself by selling to DSTV instead of selling to other industry players.
Zuku argues that Multichoice’s large market share is merely because of its exclusivity to airing the EPL with the latter continuing to refuse to share the rights.
According to Zuku chief executive Richard Bell, the exclusive rights held by DSTV discourage competition and give DSTV a head start over other competitors.
Furthermore, DSTV also possess exclusive rights for local sports content. This was the basis of a dispute in 2011 after the Kenya Rugby Football Union (KRFU) granted Zuku rights to air the Victoria Cup fixture between Kenya and Zimbabwe. The poor viewership forced KRFU to go back to DSTV.
Bell is now warning that if unchecked the trends could stunt growth in the sector.
“The way that regulators are regulating competition will, if nothing is done about it, kill competition in this continent for the next two decades,” says Bell.
“Why is it that a local company is being stopped from competing while a South African company is allowed to run roughage over our legislation,” he adds.
For now many are in agreement that the field will remain uneven until Multichoice relinquishes some of the rights it holds exclusively.
“The only reason why pay channels aren’t doing well in the Kenyan market is because of the EPL. Once we have some other satellite stations with the same EPL packages as SuperSport then DSTV will have a run for their money,” said Bernard Okumu, a sports journalist with the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.
Multichoice has held the rights since 2009 when Gateway television, popularly known as GTV, which had managed to acquire the rights, collapsed leading to huge losses to customers who had paid for services.