Media institutions should be proactive to change

By Eugene Wanekeya

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin may have used this sentiment to explain evolution of organic organisms but these wise words are vital for the evolution of today’s corporate entities specifically, media institutions.

change-architect-sign1The digitization of Kenya’s media industry has thrown a spanner in the works as regards how broadcast stations in the country earn their revenue. Gone are the days when competition was merely between four or five major TV stations in the country. The switch to digital transmission has meant viewers now have a minimum of about thirty TV stations to choose from, most of which offer foreign content. With Kenyan broadcast stations heavily reliant on revenue from advertisers, the stakes have become much higher as they strive to hold on to and even grow their viewership base. The need for increased investment in quality and relevant content is becoming more and more apparent.

However, the manner in which broadcast stations in the country were seemingly caught off guard at the commencement of the analogue switch-off leaves plenty to be desired. Someone or people must have been napping on the job. For Kenyan broadcasters to successfully evolve and stave off competition especially from foreign content providers there is need to be proactive and not reactive to emerging technological trends. Digitization has opened up new avenues for revenue in that broadcasters now do not have to be heavily reliant on advertisers for revenue but can also capitalize on their content as an additional source of revenue.

Gone are the days when competition was merely between four or five major TV stations in the country.

Through subscription to Pay TV services, viewers at home have shown a willingness to pay a premium for quality content and Pay TV providers have equally demonstrated a willingness to pay a premium to carry quality content. Globally, there are a number of multibillion dollar TV rights agreements between content providers and content carriers. In as much as a bulk of these figures involve the sports industry, the entertainment industry accounts for a significant share of these revenues. This notwithstanding, the broadcast industry is nowhere near its peak potential.

It is vital for Kenyan media owners to demonstrate their responsiveness to the changes in the media landscape through ensuring that their institutions have an executable plan of action on how they intend to capitalise on the new growth opportunities that digitization has provided. Broadcasters ought to consider expanding their horizons to stretch beyond servicing a local industry which will inevitably become saturated within the next four to seven years and set their sights on regional and eventually global audiences. It is only this sort of responsiveness to industry changes that will ensure the long term survival of Kenya’s broadcast industry. As H. Jackson Brown Jr. put it, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.”

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