Kenyans buy set-top-boxes despite TV blackout

A TV blackout in Kenya occasioned by a standoff between four broadcasters and the government over digital migration has not stopped Kenyans from acquiring set-top- boxes.

East African nation residents, both in rural and urban areas, are buying the gadgets in droves as they seek to migrate to digital broadcasting.

The blackout has entered the second week with both the four TV stations and the regulator, Communication Authority of Kenya, failing to cede ground.

Kenyans have, therefore, been left in an information blackout, with majority complaining that they are missing their favourite local programmes and newscasts.

However, awareness about the digital migration is high, the reason why many are going for the set-top boxes despite the TV blackout.

A survey by research firm Ipsos-Synovate released last week indicated that four out of 10 Kenyans who own TV sets have bought set-top boxes.

It further noted that 60 percent of those who have not acquired the gadgets plan to buy.

Those in rural areas seeking to buy, particularly free-to-air digital set-top boxes, are acquiring them through their friends and kin in the capital Nairobi.

“It is important I have the gadget whether there is a TV blackout or not. I know that the TV stations would be switched on at one time, thus, they should not come back before I have the gadget,” secondary school teacher Boniface Anjeche, who resides in Kakamega, said on phone on Monday.

The teacher was eagerly waiting for his brother in Nairobi to buy him a free-to-air set-top box after he sent him money.

“I sent him money on Saturday evening and he promised to buy and send the gadget via the courier services,” he said.

In the town, as in others across Kenya, most of the set-top boxes readily available are those of pay TV firms StarTimes and GOtv.

The two have dropped prices significantly, selling pay TV set- top boxes at an average price of 19 U.S. dollars with monthly subscription going down to a low of 0.05 dollars per day for some banquets.

Their free-to-air decoders are going for between 38 dollars and 55 dollars.

The other free-to-air decoders, on the other hand, are being sold upcountry Kenya by few independent traders, whose prices are as high as 55 dollars as compared those in Nairobi at 36 dollars.

“The reality is that whether there is a TV blackout or not, we must migrate to digital broadcasting. I had ignored buying the gadget for sometime but I went for it three days ago,” said Peter Muli, a computer technician in Nairobi, who bought a pay TV decoder.

A StarTimes sales agent in Nairobi noted that demand for the gadgets is still high despite the TV blackout.

The company and its rival GOtv have erected tents on nearly every street in the capital to reach as many people as possible.

“We have not seen negative change in demand of the set-top- boxes since the TV blackout started over a week ago. People are still buying them and we believe this will continue in coming weeks,” said the agent at a stall along Moi Avenue.

Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution in Nairobi noted that demand for set-top boxes is yet to reach its peak.

“People are aware they need to migrate, thus, will buy the gadgets whether the TV blackout is there or not. Demand will, however, peak once the TV stations are back on air because Kenyans will be missing their favourite programmes.”