A chance to reinvent broadcasting


To date only limited success in rolling out digital television services in Africa has been
achieved. Yet the migration from analogue broadcasting to digital terrestrial
television (DTT) will result in many potential opportunities for broadcasters.

There are 100 million TV sets across 60 million households in Africa and over 100
locally produced channels.
These were the figures presented by Jason Lobel, NDS regional sales director for
sub-Saharan Africa, at the recent Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation
(CTO) Digital Broadcasting Switchover Forum in Johannesburg.

Lobel continued: “NDS, a company that provides conditional access software
systems and interactive systems for digital television, does not see Africa as a
ubiquitous continent as it consists of 53 countries with one billion people. So there
are no generic solutions.

“Our view of Africa is that it is divided up into 10 different sub-markets. However,
the challenges African broadcasters face are the same across the continent, such as
lack of access to content, cost of local production, foreign ownership for investment
and limited capital.’

But there have been some noticeable advances in Africa. These include the
emergence of content markets in Africa; the development of the regulatory
framework has seen new free-to-air (FTA) and pay-TV licences granted; growth in
the FTA sector; mobile money (the concept of pre-paid broadcasting services); and
affordable pricing.

Lobel noted that after 18 years of operating MultiChoice is still one of the leading
pay-TV operators in the world. “So it’s difficult for other African pay-TV players to
play-catch up although TopTV in South Africa, Zuku in Kenya and Star TV in Nigeria
are trying. But it’s difficult to make it in pay-TV in Africa – HiTV in Nigeria is the
latest service to fail. Pay-TV is a capital intensive game.

“NDS thinks the future of growth in Africa is not pay-TV but FTA. In Nigeria there are
about 124 locally originated channels. About R7bn is spent on advertising in South
Africa annually and about $1m in the rest of Africa.

“The South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF) does a great job
measuring audience viewership which in turn helps the broadcasters to sell
advertising. Zimbabwe and Kenya are the only other countries in Africa that conduct
audience measurement; Zimbabwe is the third largest advertiser on the continent.
Therefore if you put in proper audience measurement tools in Africa, you should sell
more advertising.’

He expressed NDS’ view that FTA TV should be encrypted – not for viewers to pay
for but to sign up. “This is known as free-to-view (FTV). By encrypting DTT you will
know who is watching the channels. The UK’s DTT platform, Freeview, has been
incredibly successful. Freeview aggregates content from everywhere and puts the
Freeview brand onto it.

“I think that African broadcasters should find ways of sharing bandwidth and
multiplexes to save money and be more efficient. Policy makers should look at
economies of scale to see where cost savings can be made. DTT is a once in a
lifetime opportunity for African broadcasters and it should not be missed,’ said Lobel.

By Joanna Sterkowicz

Screen Africa – May 2012


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