With a population of 100 million-plus and a booming economy, Ethiopia is now one of the promising newcomers in the African TV sector.

By Christopher Vourlias (Variety) |

JOHANNESBURG―Turning on a TV in Addis Ababa just a few years ago, you were likely to be treated to drab program blocks on pubcaster EBC, unless you tuned into one of the popular satcasters beamed in from the Middle East.

It wasn’t until 2008 that the country got its first private channel – a satcaster based in the U.S. – and only in the past two years has real liberalization taken place, as a wave of private broadcasters have entered a suddenly fast-growing market.

With a population of 100 million-plus and a booming economy, Ethiopia is now one of the promising newcomers in the African TV sector.

Free-to-air satcaster Kana TV was a shoestring operation when it launched early last year. At the time, the company’s founders noticed how many Ethiopians were consuming Arabic TV shows on Middle Eastern networks.

“When we initially looked at the market, over 50% of the viewership were watching content in a foreign language they didn’t understand,” said deputy managing director Welela Haileselassie, during a panel discussion at Discop this week.

The company recognized an opportunity to fill a programming niche with content dubbed into the local Amharic language. Before long, Kana was bringing primetime dramas from South Korea, Brazil and Turkey into an estimated four million households and grabbing close to a 50% market share.

In a country whose media space is tightly controlled by the government, Kana execs took pains from the start to signal their benign intent.  “From day one, we were very transparent” with the government, said Welela. “That worked to our advantage.”

Continue reading this story at Variety
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