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Wananchi & Verimatrix: “Zuku is a first on the African continent”

Zuku TV

Zuku TV

AfricaCast is nearly upon us. In this special joint interview, Verimatrix’s Steve Christian (VP Marketing) and Wananchi Group CEO Richard Alden tackle some of the topics bound for the agenda…

IP&TV News: Richard, could you start by telling us something about the Zuku TV service?

Richard Alden: Zuku is a first on the African continent.  We are a unique business combining the best of digital TV through satellite with high-speed finer services, direct to the home, in selected cities in East Africa.  In the fiber areas we offer a combined digital television, Internet and fixed line telephone service.  Zuku is not only unique because of the product it offers though, our pricing is designed to appeal to the growing middle market in a way that allows us to offer attractive service at an affordable price.

IP&TV News: Steve, how was Verimatrix able to facilitate this deployment?

Steve Christian: Initially chosen in 2010 for its award-winning software-based VCAS for DVB solution to secure Zuku’s direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV services, Verimatrix has since extended the VCAS reach to also secure the revenues of the Zuku cable and DTT TV services. Playing an important role in securing the future of the Zuku brand as it extends to offer OTT services, Verimatrix is supplying Wananchi with security solutions tailored to each type of service distribution network, and is proactively supporting and executing integration activities with other ecosystem partners. Verimatrix also provides around-the-clock support to help ensure customers enjoy the best TV experience possible.

Wananchi’s cable TV network is an example of a “cap-and-grow” system upgrade scenario, where VCAS is installed in parallel with an incumbent CA system. Implementing DVB Simulcrypt, VCAS serves a more advanced population of STBs from Technicolor and Castlenet while a legacy generation of boxes are gradually upgraded. The cap-and-grow approach ensures that all subscribers enjoy uninterrupted services while optimizing customer ARPU with a new generation of STBs and services. This scenario will see the legacy CA system turned off when the STB replacement is completed.

IP&TV News: Do you (both) see Zuku’s TV service as a milestone for the African broadcasting ecosystem? What’s so significant about it?

Richard Alden:  Zuku´s television service is a milestone simply because we combine the best of local, African continental and international programming in affordable bundles that allow us to serve a wide audience group.  Where relevant content is not easily available we make it ourselves!  Not only is the content relevant and therefore interesting but the satellite delivery guarantees quality of reception.

Steve Christian:  Wananchi is targeting the 15 million TV households that it forecasts for East Africa by 2015. With cable operations established in Kenya, Wananchi launched its Zuku DTH pay-TV platform in ten East African countries in July 2011 and two years later, migrated onto the SES satellite SES-5 to extend its reach to over 35 countries. Ambitious and competitive, Wananchi’s mission is to become Africa’s leading entertainment provider, making as much content as possible available to as many people as possible across any network or device.

IP&TV News: Richard – moving forward, what next? Where do you think effort should be concentrated for pushing the ecosystem forward?

Richard Alden: We intend to grow by being continuously better at what we think we already do well.  We also expect to expand into additional geographical markets.  The analogue switch off in Africa means that there has never been more awareness of pay-TV and we expect to capitalise on this.

IP&TV News: Steve – what are the biggest challenges in this evolution, and how can they be overcome?

Steve Christian:  For Wananchi, the three key challenges are:

  1. Realising the Company’s ambition to extend the Zuku TV footprint across West, South and East Africa and become the continent’s leading entertainment provider
  2. Offering a highly competitive, affordable multi-screen service to all of its customers
  3. Creating a future-proof platform that scales well – and supports existing and anticipated content delivery and security requirements, including OTT and DTT

For Verimatrix, it is about being able to provide a comprehensive revenue security architecture that is both flexible and well matched to Wananchi’s business direction. We are happy to report that this is the case to date!

IP&TV News: Finally – you’ll both be at AfricaCast. Can you tell us something about your involvement there? Also, why do you think this event’s become so significant in the last couple of years? 

Richard Alden: AfricaCast is interesting to us because it combines all of the relevant industry players into one location at one time.  In a continent as big as Africa this is a great plus.

Steve Christian:  Verimatrix will, for the second year, be actively participating in the AfricaCast event, together with partners Wananchi, Harmonic and Eutelsat. We will be demonstrating our VCAS revenue security solutions on our stand (#21). We will also participating in the conference program on November 12th. At 12 noon Richard Alden and I will be presenting a joint key note on “Wananchi’s Digital Evolution” and at 13:30, we join the panel discussion: “What is the hold up with Africa’s Digital Switchover?”

This is then immediately followed by our complimentary, Multi-network Forum lunch where Richard and I will be joined by Rodney Benn, Regional Vice President – Africa at Eutelsat and Jakob Hummes, Sales Director, OTT and MediaGrid at Harmonic to discuss “Delivering on the Promise of Multi-network TV in Africa”. Registration is free but places are limited.

AfricaCast (11th-13th November 2014 Cape Town) is the premier show on the future of broadcasting. Click here for booking and more info.

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