BY ANTONY MUTUNGA
With the introduction of the 4g Internet in Kenya, finally comes a great way to utilize it in streaming entertainment for those using the video streaming service provider known as Netflix. Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings founded the California-based company in 1997, then operating as a DVD rental company though it started its video internet-based streaming services in early 2007.
Netflix announced the rolling out of its services globally to 130 countries; Kenya included, during the consumer electronics show held in Las Vegas, USA on January 6 2016.
Co-founder Reed Hastings said during the announcement, “Today you are witnessing the birth of a new global Internet TV network. With this launch, consumers around the world will be able to enjoy TV shows and movies simultaneously; no more waiting.”
“With the help of the Internet, we are putting power in consumers’ hands to watch whenever, wherever and on whatever device,” he added. The company also assured new subscribers to the streaming provider that they will get free services for the first month.
This move is set to keep the various pay-TV options; DStv, Zuku, GOtv, Star Times, and Safaricom’s the BIGbox on their toes due to the fact Netflix is going to offer its services, which include a vast variety of movies, shows and documentaries at a lower price.
This might be a blessing to the people as it comes at a time where one of the leading market shareholders, DStv has entered into the bad books of the people for charging high rates. The penetration of Netflix in the market may lead people to consider moving to the entertainment-streaming provider.
In January 2016, Multichoice, which owns both DStv and GOtv said it welcomes the competition that Netflix brings to the pay-TV and entertainment industry, adding that it gives the consumers the opportunity and option to compare services.
Netflix will be offering its services at an affordable price, which will range between Sh813 and Sh1, 219 per month depending on ones choice of subscription. There are three different packages to subscribe from, which include basic, standard and premium.
The basic package, being the least expensive, will go at Sh812 per month at the current exchange rates. It will enable the viewer to watch movies, shows and documentaries only on one screen at a time. The viewer will also have to be content with resolution of standard definition (SD).
If a viewer wants access to content in high definition (HD) one has to subscribe to the standard package which will go for Sh1, 016 per month. When a viewer subscribes to this package they will also be able to stream the entertainment on two different screens at a time, for example on the smart televisions as well as on ones computer.
The premium package will cost the viewer Sh1, 219 per month and will allow streaming up to four different screens at a time, for example on the smart TVs, laptop, tablets as well as on a Smartphone. The subscriber will also have an added advantage, as they will get the movies and shows in ultra HD/4K resolution.
The emergence of Netflix in Kenya country may also lead to more business for local Internet providers like Safaricom, Airtel, Orange, Faiba Limited and Wananchi groups’ Zuku fibre. This is due to the fact that Netflix needs a stable Internet connection in order to be used. Henceforth, people will mostly increase the use of the Internet.
It will not be surprising for the California-based company to end up agreeing a partnership with one of the internet providers in order to reach more people. It would be a good strategy that may lead to it increasing its market share in the country.
Netflix, as it seeks to establish itself in the Kenyan market, should brace for a duel with the Kenya film classification board (KFCB), which has already raised the red flag on the appropriateness of content. KFCB argues that some of the shows that Netflix streams are inappropriate. The board has also complained of the fact the streaming provider did not confirm with them before establishing itself in the Kenyan market.
KFCB head of compliance, Emmah Irungu, says that any foreign content once received in the country shall be subjected to the Kenyan law. “In this case, Netflix will be subjected to the film classification guidelines in the country,” she says, adding that what could be considered as extreme violence in one country may be rated differently in another.
Netflix, Communication Authority of Kenya (CAK) director- general, Francis Wangusi, says, “is an over- the- top services provider where subscribers get the content through Internet Protocol, more or less like You Tube and as such, we are not going to ask them to come for a license.” Over the top (O.T.T) refer to video, television and other services provided over the Internet rather than via a service provider’s own dedicated, managed transmission network. This is what makes content from such firms like Netflix and YouTube impossible to regulate.
The director general went ahead to say that should the company come into partnership with a local provider, enabling it to be on the digital broadcasting platform, then it would be required to adhere to local broadcasting regulations.
This however, has caused a clash between the regulator and the KFCB with KFCB chief executive of the, Ezekiel Mutua slamming Mr Wangusi’s remarks to the effect that Netflix cannot be regulated.
“We would rather make a mistake on the side of caution rather than regret later. This is a sign of commitment to national values and nothing personal. As regulators we should instead pull up our socks and find mechanisms to regulate online content and the dangers that come with it,” Mutua said.
However, the Information and Communication Cabinet Secretary, Joseph Mucheru came to the defence of Netflix saying neither the CA nor the KFCB is equipped to regulate Internet content.
“Providers like Netflix and YouTube need a different set of regulations and policy. My ministry will start discussions with stakeholders to come up with the appropriate policies and regulations to enable such businesses to thrive.”
Several factors may however hinder Netflix from hitting the Kenyan market running. About 70% of the country uses Smartphones but when it comes to smart TVs and computers not a large population is able to access. Netflix may therefore have to be content with having customers only in the middle and upper class of urban dwellers. Another big dilemma the company may face is brought about by form of pay for the subscription, as one has to have a debit card in order to pay for the subscription. Most of the population in Kenya is content with the use of mobile money.
It all comes down to the viewer at the end of the day; only he can come to the decision either to give Netflix a try or to keep using their current entertainment provider choices. Regardless of the decision one will make, it seems Netflix is here to stay and will eventually give pay-TV providers a run for their money in the long run.