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Ethiopia/Media: Canal+ ready to take on StarTimes and Multichoice

By Julien Clémençot
Posted on Thursday, 29 April 2021 08:50

Parables in a residence in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia © Tiksa Negeri/REUTERS

By launching a wide range of Amharic-language television channels, the Vivendi subsidiary Canal+ is pushing its Chinese and South African competitors -- Startimes and MultiChoice -- to reconsider their plans. The French media conglomerate is taking a bet that goes beyond Ethiopia's middle class, which it estimates at 1 million people.

At Canal+’s headquarters in the Paris suburbs, the teams of the Africa division certainly wanted the event to be more festive. The fault lies with Covid-19 and the war in Tigray. Although Canal+’s Ethiopian platform is being launched extremely cautiously, it is the most important project that the subsidiary of Vivendi – a French media conglomerate – has carried out on the continent in recent years.

Around $100m has been invested in it over the last five years.

Accelerating the project

David Mignot, managing director for Africa, has high hopes for this country of 110 million inhabitants and wants to win over 1 million subscribers. Ethiopia would become Canal+’s largest market south of the Sahara.

“War is obviously a bad thing, but not one that will discourage us. We are used to complex environments and are planning for the long term,” says the director.

A victim of widespread piracy, Canal+ gave up on the Maghreb in 2011 and then gave a serious boost to sub-Saharan countries by lowering the price of its offers, improving its distribution and finally creating content that would appeal to more than just expatriates and the wealthy classes.

Between 2012 and 2020, the company controlled by Vincent Bolloré increased its African subscribers by almost tenfold. It had 6 million at the end of last year and, over the last 12 months, 1 million new customers have registered.

Middle class

In 2019, Canal+’s management drew up a list of the most promising markets and Ethiopia stood out as an obvious choice. “It is a large country with a common language, which is neither English, Spanish nor French, and where pay-TV is still in its infancy. Canal+, which had already created platforms from scratch in Vietnam and Poland, had all the skills needed to carry out this project,” says Mignot.