The Africa Com annual conference – now in its 14th year – has garnered a reputation for bringing together the most innovative brands in the telecoms and online communications industry. This year was no exception as the event offered four keynote sessions, 12 special focus sessions, two new co-located events targeting the TV and enterprise segments (Africa Cast and Enterprise ICT Africa) and of course the Africa Com Awards.
Day 2 of the conference, which took place over two days on 9 and 10 November 2011 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, dealt firmly with IPTV, the ever-developing world of video on demand (VOD), and other satellite, Internet and broadcast services. The discussion proposed the amalgamation of every form of media creating a hybrid viewing experience, therefore changing the way that we consume content forever.
Oscar Dube, CEO of local satellite broadcast service SouthTel, delivered a keynote address on the conception and deployment of their push VOD service. This service will soon be readily available to local consumers as well those situated across sub-Saharan Africa.
Dube spoke of regionalised advertising empowering communities on a localised scale. He went on to discuss the multimedia convergence occurring at the moment and how mobile operators are offering low cost for data which is increasing data traffic. SouthTel is in business with numerous mobile operators throughout Africa.
“Subscribers want more content and want to be able to freely manage that content,’ says Dube who stands firmly behind his product and its ability to offer solutions in distributing content across Africa.
He explained their decision to offer push VOD as opposed to other similar services: “You don’t need broadband as everything is done via satellite. The content goes straight to your PVR decoder and we offer standard definition and roughly 200 hours of high definition VOD.’ Dube repeatedly noted their ability to tailor viewing specific to communities making their offerings flexible and attractive to niche markets.
During the panel discussion Ayita Gaba (business development associate for YouTube) said: “There will certainly be a surge in mobile and online content views in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa once we gain access to fibre optic Internet technology.’ He also said that Africa craves viewing flexibility but devices are currently too expensive.
Across the first world multiview displays and devices are already being developed and utilised but devising ways of controlling that landscape is an ongoing process. Africa can learn from this as they build new partnerships in this fast growing industry. Torsten Hoffman (managing partner at Global Media Consultant) suggested new and inventive ways of packaging content for the African mobile market and noted that: “Everyone will have a fair chance to develop the industry in Africa.’
According to Gall Le Garrec (Vice President, Sales EMEA at Envivio): “There are already ranges of hybrid boxes that can receive multiple types of signal transmission in Europe.’ He believes the technology is ready for the rest of the world including Africa. The US has already enjoyed the freedom of choice offered by companies such as Netflix, but its application in Africa would be difficult due to its heavy reliance on broadband technology and its relative lack of cross-cultural content.
Therefore Africa is left in the hands of the mobile device, for the most part at least. This doesn’t allow for content to reach Africans and also for African content to reach the rest of the world. Le Garrec added that a “new codec compression will be improved – meaning smaller file sizes offering better quality.’ This in itself could change the way the continent shares information within the continent and with the rest of the world.
3DTV making inroads
But will hybrid TV reach Africa in the near future? Some say there is no reason it can’t, while others feel that the mobile phone remains the greatest emerging market in Africa with a projected 735 million mobile users in Africa by 2012 that already generate $56bn in revenue. So where does this leave the newly established 3DTV market that has only just kicked off around the world?
Torsten Hoffman, director of WildEarth.TV, manages distribution of 3D content to broadcasters around the world. He believes that “3D will be a standard very soon and other devices will also come standard with 3D capability.’ However, it will remain an event driven medium focused on Hollywood blockbusters, documentaries and sports.
Africa has already played host to numerous wildlife documentaries shot in 3D and, as new technology makes devices cheaper, there will be an upsurge of 3D content across the Internet originating from Africa. With 3D a relatively new medium it allows Africa to play a competitive role in the creation of relevant content, whether it’s for mobile, Internet or TV, to distribute around the world.
By Jasyn Howes
Screen Africa magazine- January 2012