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Ethiosat helps broadcasters deliver content that reflects Ethiopian culture

Ethiopia is home to a highly diverse culture, with over 100 million people who speak nearly 80 different dialects. With roughly 5 million TV households across the country, broadcasting plays an increasingly important role in helping Ethiopian communities continue long-standing storytelling traditions that share information and experiences. Today, the nation’s TV landscape has evolved from one government-controlled station to multiple private broadcasters. TV service gaps caused by terrestrial infrastructures that couldn’t reach outside the capital of Addis Ababa have been filled by direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV. As a result, Ethiopia’s rural and remote areas, where 80% of the national population live, are able to access TV services for the first time.   

Yet, members of the Association of Ethiopian Broadcasters (AEB) hoping to produce more local content have struggled to find a satellite provider prepared to help them cost-effectively deliver reliable video across the country’s relatively young TV market. Satellite providers serving the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region were able to add a selection of Ethiopian channels to their international channel offerings. However, these services required viewers to pay subscription fees to watch content. The MENA offering also bundled all broadcasts from across the region together, making it more difficult for Ethiopian viewers to find content they could understand or would enjoy. At SES, we have provided satellite-based video contribution services to Ethiopia for over two decades. Our solution uses a broadcast footprint created specifically for the country’s needs.

Together with the AEB, we developed Ethiosat, a custom free-to-air (FTA) TV platform that delivers a bouquet of local channels exclusively to Ethiopian DTH homes. The platform interoperates with our NSS-12 satellite to deliver over 45 channels to consumers—who need only direct their satellite dish to 57°E to watch content. The platform also supports end-to-end content management, playout, and aggregation processes that help broadcasters to more efficiently deliver high-quality content to viewers nationwide.

Since Ethiosat operates within a footprint specific to Ethiopia, it saves satellite capacity costs for local broadcasters—enabling them to invest in developing local content rather than re-purposing shows from other countries. As the number of Ethiopian TV households grows, more viewers are investing in HDTVs, and want higher quality viewing experiences—particularly when watching local content they’re passionate about, like football. In addition to ensuring uninterrupted signal delivery, Ethiosat matches the country’s shifting quality expectations by providing 17 HD channels—for the first time in the country’s history. This will encourage more content creators to film in HD, secure in the knowledge they can provide their growing audience with a higher quality viewing experience.

Ethiopia is a patriotic country where people are very proud of their heritage and their language. They’re much more inclined to watch local content if it’s in higher quality. About three years ago, we started filming in HD, but everything was still transmitted in SD through our satellite provider. Now that we can transmit in HD via Ethiosat, our viewers can see the difference in quality by how crisp the picture looks. We now have the opportunity to show people all over the country what Ethiopia has to offer.

Makida Assefa, a producer for Ethiopian Broadcast Service (EBS) TV

To strengthen our partnership with Ethiopia’s broadcasters, SES opened a local office to provide 24/7 technical support, help build a network of satellite dish installers, set-top box manufacturers, and television importers, and assist with market development strategies. When broadcasters worked with MENA satellite providers, Ethiopian viewers consistently saw ads originating from external markets—creating barriers to building stronger relationships with local advertisers. Ethiosat enables broadcasters to limit the commercials viewers see to ads for local businesses—for example, supermarket ads airing during cooking shows by well-known local chefs. This ensures viewers consistently see content that’s relevant to them, and supports the overall growth of Ethiopia’s TV industry.

Ethiosat plays a crucial role in helping broadcasters define our market. If products advertised by outside markets started appearing in our supermarkets, Ethiopian broadcasters don’t earn any revenue. Since Ethiosat only serves Ethiopia and some neighbouring countries, our market is protected. This encourages more Ethiopian broadcasters creating outstanding local content to join the platform, which attracts larger viewership, and leads to more opportunities to engage advertisers.

Amman Fissehazion, CEO and Co-founder of EBS TV
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