At the beginning of the year, Liquid Telecom launched ipidi TV, its Video On Demand service in Zambia. This was its first entry into the market after more than 2 years of development. Now, the pay TV service has been launched in Kenya, marking Liquid Telecom’s entry into the triple play race for the East African market.
ipidi TV is being offered through Hai, Liquid Telecom’s internet service provider and retail broadband subsidiary which has also been the brand behind the telecoms carrier’s retail fibre roll-out in Zambia.
According to reports, ipidi will be officially launched in April, extending its presence beyond the two regions in Nairobi where it is currently available and introducing Kenyans to the ipidi TV set top boxes. Liquid Telecom is also working on increasing its fibre to the home presence from its current 2,500 subscriber total to 10,000 users by the end of 2016.
The ambitious targets are driven by two factors; Liquid Telecom’s huge terrestrial fibre footprint (which translates to extensive coverage even in areas that haven’t been explored by the competition) as well as the triple play offer that is underpinned by ipidi TV.
Liquid Telecom is well-positioned to make a strong impression in Kenya. It has extensive resources and is set to list on a European bourse this year to source even more ammunition for its media and telecoms ambitions. It also possesses a strong case with the investments it has made in its fibre and has so far proven its aptitude in the East African terrain.
However, unlike other markets like Zimbabwe and Zambia where Liquid Telecom has enjoyed a less challenging terrain thanks to its extensive resources and market infancy in terms of fibre internet and value-added services, Kenya has its own set of considerations.
To ensure that any of its East African objectives for 2016 and beyond are met, Liquid is going to have to make a compelling case to potential subscribers ahead of the existing fibre to the home and triple play market leader, Zuku.
This company is owned by the Wananchi Group, an African telecoms and entertainment outfit which has made a strong impression in East Africa with its own strategically placed shareholders that include well-heeled telecoms swashbucklers like Helios.
Wananchi’s star brand, Zuku, offers a satellite tv service which has offered wholesome competition to MultiChoice’s DStv. Zuku also holds over 40% of the Kenyan Fibre market and through this, it has extended triple play services by offering pay TV infused with locally relevant content, bundled together with unlimited internet access and VoIP communication.
As Liquid Telecom tries to outpace Zuku in this territory and works at creating relevance for its VOD service, it will have to lean on more than just its extensive fibre presence, a realisation which so far, appears to have led it to consider other points of difference.
A look at the 10Mbps entry level fibre packages, for example, shows how Liquid Telecom’s Hai option is cheaper than Zuku, (Kshs3,500/US$35 versus Zuku’s Kshs4,100/$41) However this comes up against the challenge of Zuku’s offer for TV content as part of that offer.
The same could be said for the Hai packages that are tied in with ipidi subscriptions. They are cheaper from a dollars/shillings standpoint but have to go up against the content that Zuku has curated for its own alternatives.
This reduces the ipidi versus Zuku standoff to nuances like content dynamics, quality of service and the ability to create a formidable brand which can become the symbol of all good things in triple play dynamics.
The competition on all these fronts is going to be aggressive. Liquid Telecom will have to dig deep and identify consumption trends which include preferences for local material while offering international content that leaves ipidi as more than just an aspiring Netflix.
It also has to create a name for itself in a market where Zuku is identified as an East African alternative that stood up to take on the MultiChoice monopoly and introduced Kenyans to an affordable fibre to the home option.
Figuring all of this out while racing against this competitor which has already created a lead in the fibre to the home market and taken the time to understand content preferences for both satellite and IP TV is going to be a significant challenge for Liquid Telecom and ipidi TV.