The biggest blunder ever committed by Nation Media Group

The year 2015 ushered in a new era in television broadcasting in Kenya – as it is the year when Kenya moved from analogue to digital broadcast. The ushering in of digital broadcast saw a number of changes in the country’s television landscape, the major one being the proliferation of fringe TV stations to the tune of over 60 new stations. Other changes saw the shutting down of QTV by Nation Media Group, and the decision by Standard Group to introduce Kenya’s second news only station – KTN News.

For those not aware, the first ever 24 News channel in Kenya was Kenya 24 (K24 – I am not sure if the K actually stands for Kenya) which was launched shortly before the 2007 general elections. Forced with the difficulty to acquire news that would satisfy viewers 24 hours in a day, the channel would restructure programming to become like any other TV Station in Kenya. Up to date, K24 hasn’t really captured any significant market segments for its programmes.

When KTN News was introduced, there were those who thought that Standard Group was making a mistake. A few people I talked with reasoned that entities such as CNN, BBC, SkyNews and Aljazeera can manage to broadcast news 24 hours a day 7 days a week due to their global coverage. For global events, there is no way a TV station can miss interesting news content to bring to the viewers. A TV Station focusing on local news however could not manage to generate unique, always interesting non-repetitive content due to the limited scope from where the station can gather news. The arguments seemed valid as K24 had tried and failed. It was a matter of days before KTN News could fail too.

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But we were wrong. According to the latest TV rankings released by GeoPoll from their Media Measurement Service, KTN News has not only become part of the mainstream TV stations, but has managed to spring ahead of KBC, K24 and NTV. The only station that still ranks ahead is her sister station, KTN Home.

In the latest ranking by GeoPoll, Citizen TV still controls the airwaves during prime time with 33.7% of national viewership, followed a distant second by KTN Home at 11.1%. The two year old KTN News has however grown so fast to capture 8.8% of the viewers, eating part of the market that had been control by Citizen TV, NTV, and KBC. It is particularly important to note that in the previous ranking, Citizen TV controlled 44% of the viewership, and thus it is very likely KTN News managed to eat up most of Citizen TV fans. The other 1.5% of the previous Citizen TV fans could have gone to the new TV stations like KUtv.

The surprising performance of KTN News since it was launched in 2015 reveals the greatest blunder done by Nation Media Group when Joseph Muganda took over from Linus Gitahi, an event that also happened in 2015. The Nation Media Group underwent leadership change at a time when the broadcast technology was taking shape, and instead of the new CEO making shift changes to take advantage of the new affordable broadcast techniques, the CEO decided to shut down QTV (diverting the spectrum to air NTV’s content), a blunder that has worked largely in favor of Standard Group.

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By the time Kenya shifted from analogue to digital broadcast, many entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to introduce TV stations focused on different segments of the society. There have emerged stations targeting children, the youth, lifestyle/fashion lovers, and many others. The problem with these stations is that they lack the financial muscle that would generate high quality content to make them interesting.

A niche that has not been properly captured is content targeting entrepreneurs, technology and science lovers, and the young graduates and new market entrants interested in business and financial news. What Nation Media Group could have done, instead of shutting down QTV, is to refocus the station to capture this huge unserved market segment.

After reading the latest GeoPoll ranking, what Nation Media Group ought to do is rush to the drawing board and find ways of resurrecting QTV, not to compete with KTN News, but to come up with captivating Business, Science, and Technology content mostly relying on current affairs that can better inform Kenyans on the progress of the economy. Nation Media Group has the capacity to serve those of us who have been longing for just that type of content. And I challenge them to do a survey to find out the size of the market yearning for some quality Business, Science and Technology news and shows.

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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