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More households in Kenya acquire TV sets amid digital migration

By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s migration to digital television has made more households acquire TV sets, with the number of those owning the gadgets going up considerably.

About 4.3 million households in the East African country now own TV sets, latest statistics from the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) showed Tuesday, up from about 3.5 million when the country shifted to digital migration in February 2015.

The new figures indicate that digital migration has been a roaring success in East Africa’s biggest economy despite initial fears that had been expressed by various stakeholders, including media houses and consumer rights organizations.

During the switch to digital TV, many opposed the process noting over half of Kenya’s population would have information blackout. But with the number of households acquiring television sets going up, critics have been proved wrong.

According to the CA, the cumulative number of digital set top boxes purchased by the end of December stood at 4.26 million, with 722,196 being free-to-air set-top-boxes while 3.5 million being pay TV.

This is a rise from 3.04 million for pay TV and 95,493 for free-to-air set-top-boxes purchased during a similar period a year ago.

The surge in the number of TV sets in Kenya could be attributed to increased coverage of television signal following digital migration.

Some 66 percent of Kenya’s population now receive TV signal up from half the number when there was analogue signal, according to the regulator.

However, digital migration has not only brought boom for TV set acquisition in the East African nation, the number of channels viewers can access has risen exponentially.

From about five before the big switch, Kenyans can now watch over 60 free local channels besides international ones.

"On December 31 2016, the number of free-to-air TV channels on the digital terrestrial platform stood at 66 up from 63 recorded in the preceding quarter," said the CA in its quarterly report.

On the other hand, the number of pay TV service providers on the Digital Terrestrial Television platform stands at two, namely GoTV and StarTimes.

Free-to-air set-top- boxes are currently going for an average of 35 U.S. dollars in the East African nation from about 50 dollars before the switch.

On the contrary, for pay TV, customers parts with between 25 dollars and 60 dollars to acquire the gadget, having dropped from as high as 100 dollars, and further pays as little as 2 dollars for monthly subscription.

"Two things have made the number of TV sets in Kenya grow significantly.

First is the increased signal coverage, which has spread to areas that never had making people in such places buy TV," said Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solutions in Nairobi.

Second, he noted that government’s efforts to take electricity to the remotest parts of the country have enabled people to have power, thus, fanning demand for TVs.

"Many people were not buying TV sets because they had no power, but with their houses powered, why not have a TV set?" he said, adding that the numbers would keep on rising.


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