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The eNews channel, which is part of the multi-billion rand terrestrial broadcasting company Sabido, is cooking up plans to roll out a brand new online strategy.
The organisation is one of the biggest players in the African broadcast space, with a presence on South Africa’s fifth terrestrial channel and its own dedicated 24-hour satellite news channel which broadcasts to a number of countries across the continent. To date the media giant has made no significant investment in an online presence.
Memeburn can reveal that eNews has brought in well-known online veteran Tim Spira to head up the new operation.
It is unclear what the new online operation will be called, and it is understood the name is a closely-guarded secret.
Spira’s previous experience includes time spent as the publisher of the Naspers-owned Finweek magazine and fin24.com, one of the top business sites in the country. Spira was also part of an early online publishing business, iafrica.com.
“eNews has developed a really strong reputation, and deservedly so. Everything that the eNews brand stands for in broadcast will be reflected in the online offerings,” Spira told Memeburn.
He emphasised that the new operation will carry through the broadcast giant’s general ethos.
The company has been actively recruiting for a number of key positions. It’s unclear precisely how many staff members the new operation hopes to bring on board, with Spira himself saying it is “too early” to talk about job numbers.
According to Spira, the new online venture will operate across multiple platforms, including tablets, mobile and web.
Usage figures from the online publisher-dominated Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA) show that eNews will be fighting for a slice of South Africa’s more than 10-million monthly unique web browsers and 1.5-million unique mobile browsers. Online ad spend is reported to be at the half a billion rand mark (R600m) by Nielsen Media Research (at rate-card-rate), but with a relatively small market share of just over 2%. In comparison, TV ad spend sits at around the 40% mark.
The only major TV competition eNews faces in the online stakes is the public-broadcaster, the SABC, which ranks surprisingly low in the list of the country’s top websites. At the time of writing, SABCNews.com does not appear to feature in the country’s list of top 100 websites, according to recent stats by the DMMA.
eNews’ entry into the online space comes fairly late, with Spira acknowledging there will be “catching up” to do if it is to compete with already-established players.
“It’s absolutely true that we’re coming in late, but that means we can learn from others.” Spira said the company has looked at a number of international case studies to make sure it “gets things right from the start”.
“I think entering the market now gives us the opportunity to deliver an experience that meshes from day one with the social, multiplatform and multimedia character of today’s online environment, rather than trying to bolt these elements onto an outmoded legacy offering,” he added.
The new venture comes on the back of News24, the largest online news player in the country, announcing retrenchments.
TV offers something other online players don’t
Spira is bullish about the interplay between TV and online as content medium, and feels that eNews has an edge: “It’s something that’s not been done in SA and Africa before… We can offer something other players can’t,” he said.
If the chatter at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was anything to go by, Spira is right on the money. CSI creator Anthony Zuicker predicted that an evolving YouTube could see “the extinction of TV as we know it“. The show also played host to the inaugural International Academy of Web Television (IAWTV) Awards, which included a Best News Web Series category.
Spira noted the new online division has the full backing of eNews head Patrick Conroy and holding company Sabido.
This, he believes, will stand the new online operation in good stead given that eNews’ business model combines “elements of pay TV with a very successful advertising model which has proven to be resistant to the economic downturn”.