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Times Television: Twenty-four months later

The task at hand was not to establish the presence of Times Television in a crowded and competitive cultural sphere.

But the task at hand was to introduce a versatile platform that would enliven an, otherwise, monotonous television experience.

Today, two eleven-Decembers later, the man who borrowed a leaf from Nation Media Group in Kenya— which has newspapers, radio and television stations— is glad that the Board of Directors and shareholders saw the sense in his idea and played game.

“As Malawi’s biggest proudly owned media house— which established The Daily Times in 1895, Malawi News in 1959 and The Sunday Times in August 2004— it was only natural progression that we roll out [television],” says Times Group Managing Director Leonnard Chikadya.

Times Television is not just a huge project; it is very expensive. But I am glad that the vision has not only come to fruition; it has given a new dimension to Malawians,” he adds.

But what has become commonly known as Times Television could not have been born had it been that Chikadya was short-sighted. Indeed, he is of the view that the then dream called Times Television should have come into fruition much earlier.

“I was privileged to attend the 50th anniversary of Nation Media Group in Kenya, where I learned that they had several media platforms, among them a radio station, television station and newspapers. I joked with their managing director that it sounded funny that, in just 50 years, they had all these platforms.

“In our case, we had been in existence for 114 years but we only had the newspapers as a media platform. Today, I am glad that, with the support of the shareholders and other business divisions, we have the new platform. In fact, our vision was to have a radio and television station by the year 2015 and I am glad that the vision has come to reality,” says Chikadya.

Today, Times Television is not a brand only liked by viewers; it has inspired the confidence of advertisers and partners, too. Not an easy feat for a television station that is only 104 weeks’ old. More so when the vision has been realised with the establishment of Times Radio, formerly Matindi FM, in May this year.

In a case of two eleven- Decembers, the television station that rolled out on the strength of borrowed money has captured the attention of multi-national companies that came onto the scene before it.

Just this week, Chikadya was in South Africa, fine tuning the agreement that would see Times Television being watched full-time on DSTV.

Already, a fruitful partnership with Star Times has brought Germany’s elite football league, Bundesliga, into Malawians’ living rooms as they watch the likes of Bayern Munich strut their stuff to soccer-loving viewers.

“[As they say] where there is a will, there is a way. [Again] Money chases good business like us. So, looking to the future, this is a strategic decision. The cost is going to be recovered,” says Chikadya, thanking business partners, “who have never had the opportunity to benefit from television broadcasting”, for making the dream work.

“It was not easy to sell airtime to advertisers. [Today] There is so much confidence. We hope that, through satellite, we will be able to reach out to more viewers,” says Chikadya, observing that he who gets stuck in the mud must learn how to navigate his way out.

Not one to be carried away by the waves of excitement, Chikadya— who does not miss a chance to remind all and sundry that Times Television is a project, as opposed to a finished product— keeps on dreaming big.

“Going forward, we want to embrace satellite in the spirit of digital migration in order to improve picture quality. [Again] Television is about content, which we want to consolidate. We want to focus on local events and become a vehicle for the promotion of tourism and agriculture. Television can offer these possibilities,” says Chikadya.

The aim is to change people’s behaviour and ensure that Malawians do not travel back to anything closer to hunger or knowledge gaps.

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