Ex-K24 Boss: How Attempt to Copy Citizen TV Model Failed

  • File image of K24 news studio.
    File image of K24 news studio.
  • Peter Opondo, the former Editor in Chief at Mediamax has shared insights into how K24 TV failed to implement a similar strategy adopted at Citizen TV

    Opondo is also a former Group Editorial Consultant at Royal Media Services (RMS) which runs Citizen TV

    The strategist, on Tuesday, October 27 through his LinkedIn page, compared the two stations and hinted at why K24 fired its top anchors and presenters in May 2020. 

    Citizen TV Strategy 

    In 2007, the SK Macharia owned station triumphed the media and entertainment industry and asserted itself as Kenya's top television channel. It hired highly rated anchors Swaleh Mdoe, Catherine Kasavuli, Louis Otieno (from KTN) and Julie Gichuru (from NTV) and others. 

    File image of veteran journalist Peter Opondo
    File image of veteran journalist Peter Opondo

    Opondo states that before hiring these anchors, Citizen TV focused on local entertainment content such as Papa Shirandula, Inspector Mwala and Tahidi High to woo viewers as opposed to KTN and NTV who focused on airing international soap operas. 

    "Around 2005, Citizen TV was a distant number four in terms of ratings among key players in the industry. KBC, KTN and NTV were the leaders nationally in that order, although when it came to urban areas KTN was ahead, followed by NTV and then KBC," Opondo writes. 

    The Nation Media Group which owns NTV did not see Citizen TV as competitors, going as far as allowing them to run full-page advertisements on the Daily Nation for their shows every day of the week.

    "By the time Citizen TV went for the top presenters from NTV and KTN in early 2007, it already had a base of a captive audience. And the Strategic intent of hiring the top anchors was not to help Citizen TV penetrate the market, rather it was a statement to the industry that the channel was now going upstream, ready to take on the big boys," he adds. 

    K24 TV Reportedly Adopts Citizen TV Strategy 

    The Digital Strategist states that In January 2013, K24, a newbie in the market, pulled a page from the Citizen TV playbook. 

    K24 spent a fortune on hiring top anchors, Belinda Obura, Tom Mboya, Frankline Wambugu, Jimmi Gathu, Torome Tirike (from Citizen TV), Isabella Kituri and Ann Ngungi (from KTN). Years later, Mediamax added Betty Kyalo from KTN News and Felix Odiwour (Jalang'o) who joined Milele FM from Hot 96

    "K24, it would turn out, had bitten more than it could chew and like a marathoner who begins the race in a sprint, the channel would soon be running on fumes just a few months later," he states. 

    Citizen TV, having established itself had the resources and ability to defend its territory after K24 attempted to disrupt the market.

    Citizen TV studios

    The Mediamax owned station also focused on creating its content around consumers that Citizen TV had overlooked or regarded as non-priority. This, he says, would give K24 an advantage because, first, the established stations were likely to ignore K24 and secondly, K24 would quickly build a critical mass of customers that would provide the defence to enable them to attack the market upstream.

    K24 rebranded in 2013 from a 24/7 news and current affairs channel to an entertainment and news channel, just like the rest of the main players.

    K24 Blunders

    Opondo states that  K24's strategy was to go head-on against the leading market players, especially Citizen TV. This, he describes as a risky strategy that often amounts to a zero-sum game; that for you to win viewers, someone else must lose viewers.

    K24 reportedly tweaked its programmes and mirrored that of Citizen TV with the intention of outshining Citizen TVHowever, it proved to be a costly affair and six months into the new strategy, some of the top anchors were declared redundant

    "The numbers were simply not adding up and the company was haemorrhaging cash in a manner that could easily bring the entire company down if not stopped," Opondo states, adding that K24 TV failed to lay down strategies similar to Citizen TV's in 2005 after hiring Wachira Waruru and instead shot straight at securing top anchors. 

    The Covid-19 Pandemic

    The pandemic affected all industries in Kenya, especially the media. K24 woes worsened after it directed its top staff to accept pay cuts in May 2020. 

    The move backfired, with the station and staff publicly battling it out in court. The judge ruled in favour of the employees on the basis that to effect redundancy, the company was to observe existing individual contracts.

    Most of the highly rated staff quit for other stations, with some opting to join the digital space and become content creators. Other's are still trying to find their feet. Peter Opondo resigned on May 11, 2020. 

    K24, later on, unveiled a new team of presenters in June 2020, with some switching camp from Switch TV

    Undated photos of Kiss FM presenter Felix Odiwour (Jalang'o) and media celebrity Betty Kyalo