In a khat house in the capital Addis Ababa, a group of men and women are chewing the slightly narcotic plant. Her gaze is mesmerized on the television, where a half-dressed South Korean soldier in Amharic confesses his love for a young lady.
The private satellite channel Kana TV has been broadcasting since April 2016 and has taken the hearts of Ethiopian viewers by storm. The program, which consists mainly of foreign series, is broadcast exclusively in Amharic and in HD quality.
Already at the start of the station Kana TV reached a market share in the prime time between 40 and 50 percent. Today, Kana TV is the nation’s leading television channel, counting four million TV households.
Behind Kana TV is the Afghan Moby Group, which was founded in 2002 with the support of the media conglomerate News Corporation by Rupert Murdoch. “It’s a crazy venture,” explains Elias Schulze, managing director and co-founder of Kana TV. “At the beginning, we needed 50 man hours to cover an hour of programming.”
To date, Kana TV has synchronized 2,300 hours of foreign content – this requires a coordinated operation: About 180 employees take care of the program execution.
The government, which has a restrictive media policy and ranks 150th out of 180 countries in the rankings of Reporters Without Borders, has fallen behind with state broadcasters: “TV used to be so boring, all channels were mainly news, but Kana is pure entertainment, and people really like it, “says a young woman from Addis Ababa.
The success of Kana TV is mainly due to the fact that entertainment formats are broadcast in the main common language Amharic. Although only about a quarter of the 100 million citizens have Amharic as their native language, research by Kana TV shows that 70 percent of viewers understand the language well. Before the launch of Kana TV, soap operas were only available on Arabic-language satellite channels.
The current program of Kana TV consists of 90 percent foreign formats. The goal of the station, however, is that in future half of the program will be covered by in-house productions. The Kana TV series “Masters at Work” is considered a role model: The series presents works by Ethiopian artists such as singers, poets or fashion designers and has found great acceptance among the audience.
For Kana TV’s Communications Manager, Hailu Teklehaimanot, the success comes as no surprise: “Mainstream media, both locally and internationally, are focusing on the lack of macro-level development. At the micro level, there are other narratives Inspired young people just trying new things. ”
An example is the Masters at Work episode with Girma Berta. The photographer documents life on the street with his cell phone and shows how street children or traders master their daily lives. “The message I want to convey to young people interested in photography is: Do not be afraid to try new things,” says Berta on the program.
Attack from Ethiopian culture?
But Kana TV is not undisputed. Many Ethiopians have banned the program from their homes. “I do not let my family see Kana TV, otherwise we will not talk to each other when I come home from work,” says a taxi driver from the capital.
Commentators regularly criticize Kana TV’s foreign soap operas as an attack on Ethiopian culture. Ethiopian Mahder Sereke recently said on Twitter that the state broadcaster Ethiopian Broadcasting Service (EBS) is doing a far better job in representing the Ethiopian population than the entertainment channel: “Kana is not degrading to Ethiopian culture, but especially to women. ”
Irrespective of the criticism, the success of Kana TV could continue: Currently, a message format is being worked on to further expand its market share.