An Inside Look at Social TV in Kenya

By Adam Flomenbaum 

odipo-devWhile most of the social TV action takes place in the US and Europe, we have also covered how countries such as Thailand and Brazil take to the second screen. Now, we turn our attention to Kenya, where social TV activity has exploded in the past year. The majority of the country still prefers analog TV to digital TV, but whereas the US is experiencing a TV revolution in terms of on-demand options, says Odanga Madung, co-founder of Kenya-based data anlytics company Odipo dev, “we are currently undergoing what is called the “digital migration.” The government has stated that all stations move from analogue to digital signals and this is being touted to forever change the way the industry operates due to the lowered barriers of starting a TV station.”

We spoke with Madung about the digital migration taking place in Kenya and the state of social TV in the country:

Lost Remote: What’s social TV like in Kenya? What’s the TV industry in general like in Kenya and how does it differ from the US?

Odanga Madung: Social TV has really come to the fore in Kenya with people going online and congregating around their favorite first screen content as social media continues to increase in popularity. In the last year, with events such as the Westgate terror attacks, the elections and the world cup social TV has really matured in the country with TV shows gaining a foothold of their audiences through the use of hashtags and their Facebook pages to get comments from their audiences. There are even shows right now dedicated to garnering second screen engagement from viewers. The numbers however are not as staggeringly high as in the US; the best show last year managed to get an average of over 9,000 tweets per episode with a total of over 500,000 tweets over the course the year, so we still have long way to go.

In Kenya we have pay TV channels whereby you have to buy a decoder to use and analogue signals which the majority still prefer. The TV industry in Kenya is dominated by the news, as Kenyans’ affinity for politics has made it that way and its what most of the water cooler discussions are about. The stars of the prime time news often end up being the darlings of the media scene, the station with what is considered to be the best news often ends up being the most watched station. Even from our data, prime time news was even the most resilient show at a time when other shows were struggling due to the World Cup.

The Kenyan TV industry and the US TV industry are quite different, first of all we’re still on analogue signals while a lot of the US is on cable and devices like TiVo and have a large array of channels to choose from. In Kenya, unless you’re on pay TV, which most Kenyans can’t afford, you have 15 channels to choose from. One thing to note, though, is that both the US and Kenya are going though revolutions in broadcast; while the US is experiencing disruption due to the influx of on demand services such as Netflix, in Kenya we are currently undergoing what is called the “digital migration” the government has stated that all stations move from analogue to digital signals and this is being touted to forever change the way the industry operates due to the lowered barriers of starting a TV station.

LR: What social networks are most popular?

Madung: In Kenya Facebook is the most popular site with around 3.8 million users, and there are current estimates of twitter having around 650,000 users. Despite this, it’s Twitter that Kenya has grabbed the attention of TV audiences.

LR: What does your platform do? What problem does it help solve?

Madung: We have created a platform, called Dive, that allows TV stations, producers, advertisers and marketers to uncover audience insights based on not just how many people are talking about television content, but what they are saying too. Through the use of natural language processing, Dive will instantly provide customers with information on the popularity characters of the show as well as what categories of lifestyle the content generated falls under, enabling us to understand the behavior and interests of Kenyan TV viewers. This information will also be supplemented by standard audience and content metrics.

Currently the TV measurement solutions in the country are slow and inaccurate, people get to know what works in the form of quarterly reports and when they do get it the information is still insufficient and inaccurate. In a competitive environment, the speed of such information is not capable of supporting the quick decision cycles of businesses today. The rich information Dive provides allows stakeholders to observe the impact of strategies on the level of engagement around media initiatives in real time. Reducing the information lag for TV shows that choose embrace second screen interaction.

LR: Who are you currently working with?

Madung: As at now we are still currently in talks with potential customers in the region but prior to this we have served top local companies in sectors such as telecommunications, entertainment and market research .

LR: What are plans to grow in future?

Madung: There’s a huge opportunity for digital innovation in the continent so we want to scale this technology across Africa and leave no social data-set unturned. There is some very interesting work going on in the image analysis space and we are looking to add that feather to our cap really soon.