Uganda finally meets the digital migration deadline. Does this dictate a change in media consumption?

analog TV with White noise

Statistics assume that a few households within boundaries of Uganda own a television set. Of the staggering 30 million plus people, it’s very shocking to reveal that close to 3.2 million people of the said 30 actually own a TV set  of which 2 million  are concentrated within Kampala and it’s suburbs.

Interestingly though, very few of the above households own a set top box! But, thanks to the recent digital migration deadline, set-top boxes sales have skyrocketed to unprecedented numbers with reports suggesting Free To Air variants are out of stock.

The digital migration deadline has had its effect seeing industry heavyweight, DSTV down to its knees with its standard HD decoders slashed to a mere UGX 99,000, plus an installation fee of UGX 50,000 bringing the whole sum to UGX 150,000 in order to fend off competition that is feasting on its “comfortable” position.

FROM OUR SPONSOR- Continue for more content

It follows the footsteps of its foes, Chinese StarTimes and other pay TV players like Azam TV and  Zuku TV whose offerings have long enjoyed price cuts with affordable rates, an attempt seen to lure subscribers ahead of the migration process. With all this said, it’s shocking to reveal that once again very few TV owners have acquired digital tuners even with slashed prices!

Many wailed and continue to do so on the news that the communications regulator, UCC had pulled the plug on analogue transmission whose demise welcomed us to digital transmission. The question still remains whether these disgruntled parties will evolve and join the fold, or will instead opt to look for alternatives elsewhere. Will they switch to radio and print? Will they instead consume content over the top or nevertheless throw in the towel? I can’t possibly tell.

Changing media consumption

Decades ago and others before it have seen radio as the undisputed king of media consumption in Uganda. This has costs to thank since FM/AM tuners sell far less than any other medium.

The revolutionary mobile phone (with a large percentage of the population owning them) also sells with radio out of the box which further puts radio far ahead of the competition and so I can proclaim that radio is back to its sweet spot.  Radio is followed by TV, print and since we’re in the 21st century, I can’t conclude without giving digital media a nod.

The above are the main sources of information to the Ugandan populous each with its own advantages as well as shortcomings. Radio is mostly preferred for being cheap and it’s penetration rate is almost unrivaled, which can’t be said of the remaining lot.

TV on the other hand has seen a surge in consumption over the following years for its visual ingredient but this continued success has been put to test with  the digital switch. Similar success has been exhibited by digital natives like Video on Demand (VOD/SVOD), blogs and the traditional social media feeds whose uptake in recent times shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Whereas many rushed to TV to consume prime time linear programming especially News, sports and entertainment, the digital migration process seen a similar number plummet (especially the have-nots who were left with no TV feed) which further raises the question whether these will give TV  a cold shoulder and tryout offer offerings.

Does this sound alarm bells that TV is dead, or it’s at the helm of glory times that finally quality content is going to make its way to many people’s households?

The government on the other side is assuring the citizenry that the switch is for their own benefit and cementing this claim while activists, like always have aired their dissatisfaction with the whole process especially for the common man, citing how ill prepared the country is for this switch to take effect. They mostly cite expensive set-top box prices together with subscriptions and other unmentioned demerits  which further arouses feelings of doubt whether we’re poised to take off or likewise fail with the whole migration process. It should be noted that other countries like Ghana extended their migration deadlines over similar issues.

Already areas within a 60km radius from the Kololo transmission site have gone digital with more set to follow, but we’re yet to see if digital TV will run parallel to other alternatives while still scoring the same success as before the switch considering they’re cheaper and easily accessible to the population?


Image Credit: Wikipedia