It’s a brave – and expensive – move taking a South African news product to the United Kingdom, but the challenge of broadcasting on a Sky platform is one that the team at eNews Channel is confronting head on.
The Channel’s head of news, Patrick Conroy, confirmed that eNews Channel Africa, rebranded eNCA, says because eNews has been “very cost conscious” over the past 10 years, keeping operational expenses under control, they are in a position to be able to expand.
“The costs are manageable when compared to our overall operating expenses,” he told TheMediaOnline. “The major costs are signal distribution (getting the signal to the UK) and annual platform fees.”
Conroy said eNCA will sell advertising on the channel without Sky input, and without having to pay SKY anything in revenue. “Advertising will be sold both from the UK and South Africa. We have set up an office in London,” he said.
Conroy said eNCA will be available as a free to air channel on the Sky digital satellite platform in the UK only. “There is nothing on the table at this point to extend into Europe, although we remain open to discussions about carriage in various territories,” he said.
The opportunity was originally identified by CEO Marcel Golding and COO Bronwyn Keene-Young, who “kicked the process off by identifying SKY had an opportunity and deciding to bid for a vacant channel”.
Once that was confirmed Conroy himself took over the project and worked with a team of people to make it come to fruition. The entire process took approximately four months.
Conroy said content on the channel will not change, an important fact for South African viewers. “ We are broadcasting to the UK not about the UK. The only difference will be that we will broadcast a separate sports bulletin to international viewers because of sport rights issues,” he said.
The team did extensive research on the target market in the UK. And this is what they came up with:
1 – The expats: those who immigrated and now live in the UK on a permanent basis. This group made a conscious decision to leave SA but still have a strong bond with the country.
2 – The stay behinds: These are South Africans who intended to return to this country, but ended up marrying a British national or secured a very good job that has seen them settle in the UK almost unintentionally. This community misses home and may long to return to South Africa in the future.
3 – The working professional: this is the person who has been sent over on a work secondment to the UK and will return after a few years.
4 – The global citizen with an interest in South Africa/Africa: This market is made up of the African diaspora, diplomats, political leaders, academics, business professionals, entrepreneurs, and potential tourists considering the country as a destination. They have a specific interest in South Africa in the short to medium term and are seeking the nuance and context that foreign broadcast media cannot provide.
eNCA is seen in Southern Africa on DStv (403). “However our Africa division also provides news bulletins to e.tv Africa which is available in 49 African countries, and to The Africa Channel (TAC) which is also on the Sky digital satellite platform,” Conroy said.
But he wouldn’t be drawn on estimates in terms of viewership on SKY. “We have internal estimates but we are not committing ourselves publicly to any specific numbers. We are confident though that a significant number of South Africans who have access to SKY in the UK will tune in,” he said.
Conroy said the product was already made, “so the only challenge is getting the signal to the United Kingdom. We have the expertise to manage this so don’t see this as a problem at all”.
The channel number on SKY will be 518.
The move into the United Kingdom comes with a rebranding exercise too. Not only is the name changing but also a new look and feel will be launched on Friday.
“There are a number of factors that led us to rebrand the channel. Firstly ‘eNews’ is an unknown brand internationally and is easily mistaken for E! entertainment. As we will be launching our online offering in coming months it was important that we could also link our name to a URL.
“Secondly, we want people to instantaneously know where we are from when they see our logo or on screen imaging to distinguish ourselves from the foreign broadcast networks currently reporting on South Africa and the Continent. For millions of users or viewers this will be their first interaction with a South African media brand, so imaging becomes vital,” said Conroy.
The channel is also in the process of creating an online news presence similar to that of the BBC. “We are still in the process of developing a comprehensive online service, but have launched a temporary offering as a result of the Sky launch. Originally we had not expected to be launching in the UK this early on and would ideally have wanted an operational site first. But in this business you adapt or die – so adapt we did. The temporary site does its best to mitigate a user’s disappointment that we are not fully functional, yet,” Conroy said.