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Digital migration: The changing media sphere


Kenya has moved from analogue to digital media, changing the media landscape drastically. Numerous adjustments are now being made in terms of advertisements and content development.


Kenya loves its freedom- the access to information that media provides and the freedom of expression that the Constitution affords its population. With the government-led switch from analogue to digital broadcast, these freedoms were encroached upon. Kenyan courtrooms, boardrooms and newsrooms were turned into ‘battlegrounds’ as individuals made attempts to stop the migration.

Digital migration offers consumers the choice to either subscribe to pay television networks or acquire the DVB-T2, MPEG4 free-to-air (FTA) set top boxes and integrated digital televisions (IDTVs) that enable them to receive FTA channels at no cost.

The politics surrounding that major switch gave the impression that Kenyan media houses were against the digital migration and general advancement in the media industry. This view is however debatable.

Most conversations on social media and other platforms zoned in on the broadcasting licenses that were issued by the Communication Authority of Kenya (CAK). Digital migration disrupts the status quo. Already, it has caused uncertainty for the three largest media houses; Nation Television (NTV), Kenya Television Network (KTN) and Citizen Television (CTV).

Competition and opportunities

The switch to digital media has attracted both foreign and domestic investments in Kenya and the African continent as a whole. The trend of acquisitions and the establishment of new channels is gradually rising, attracting more investment. These investments are inevitably creating more competition and opportunities for diversified programming.

In addition, there has been increased viewership, which has continued to attract sponsorships. These changes have in the process interrupted advertising as we formerly knew it.

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Media in Kenya is fast making a shift from broadcasting to narrowcasting where content is the sole determinant of viewership. The big question therefore is, what major transformations has digital migration brought to the advertising industry?

The proliferation of different channels, from the web to mobile, and the consumers’ remote power have seen viewers watching content on multiple platforms leading to a massive audience fragmentation in the advertising industry. In an age where people consume multi-platform content, with access to various media increasing every single day at competitive rates, it has become more challenging for brands to reach audiences on the strength of viewership numbers alone. Digital adds another layer to the advertising equation, which is viewer interest, which goes on to determine whether people consume more or less brand content.

According to a social media digital migration report done by Ornico Kenya, Kenyans believe that the migration gives viewers more power and freedom to choose content. It suggests that out of the 100+ news and entertainment channels introduced by the migration, viewers have the control and power to choose what to consume and when.

If Tanzania is anything to go by, then Kenya’s TV viewership is set to decrease as the choice to stream content online through YouTube and other social platforms is an open option, with data becoming increasingly affordable. As experienced during the media switch-off on February, 14, 2015, Kenyans took to social media for news bulletins and entertainment.

Changing advertising trends

Luckily, this gives the advertiser a whole new and rapidly growing advertising platform. Radio advertising might see a blossoming future because they have more stable and predictable niche audiences.  Outdoor, print and promotional platforms might also experience growth as advertisers venture more into these mediums.

Media houses may adopt content production as a revenue stream. Advertisers and Public Relations agencies should affiliate themselves with quality content developers to creatively produce content with advertising packages. Events such as product launches, television series, celebrity endorsements, personality profiling and concerts might also increase the advertising popularity.

Changes in broadcast and the inevitable increase in audience fragmentation means media monitoring and audience analysis have now become more critical to guide media buying, placement and strategic PR decisions. For brands and organisations to communicate optimally and to understand viewership patterns, big data and its analysis come to the fore. Media analysis help brands to avoid investing in dwindling advertising and marketing budgets or platforms that are less likely to yield returns.

Looking into how the industry is playing out, the advertising costs might increase as media houses transfer the cost for digital setup infrastructure to viewers. We may witness some cautious spending on the part of advertisers as they gain insights on where to invest their marketing budgets.

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The structure of advertising and PR budgets against the ratings of major media houses has become irrelevant and its construction now depends on niche audiences in content programming. Only time will tell how much the advertising industry will evolve.



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