Rapid technology innovation and development is spawning new business models in the television content arena, particularly in Africa as mobile becomes a preferred device and new content packages are created. However, the high cost of data remains a challenge for television and video content providers. This emerged at the AfricaCom conference and expo which took place at the end of last year.
The 2017 November event marked the 20th anniversary of AfricaCom on the African continent. With 18 different conference streams running simultaneously and two exhibition floors spanning the Cape Town International Conference Centre (CTICC), including a Technology Arena in the newly opened CTICC extension, AfricaCom is one of the largest events in Africa.
The event organisers bring the entire media and technology ecosystem on the continent together under one roof to discuss innovation, new products, new systems, regulations and trends for the coming year.
In the TV Connect Africa stream, the business of broadcasting in Africa was discussed by keynote speakers and several panels. Channels Media Group chairman and CEO, John Momoh, warned that the industry was faced by radical change and disruption and the “disarranging of the way we do our business”.
“Suddenly new markets are created with new sets of values that threaten existing markets. Streaming is changing every single relationship in the entire value chain,” Momoh pointed out.
Momoh spoke of a new business model for screen content as OTT (Over-The-Top content delivered direct via a set top box and/or direct through the internet) is expected to grow by 20 per cent globally in the coming year, with “digital predators” like Amazon and Netflix now competing for rights to major sporting and entertainment events along with global broadcasters.
A strong theme was the growth of the content industry across Africa as more mobile subscribers come online and consumers demand local content and commentary in their own languages. A massive hurdle to growth, however, remains the cost of data and the network providers were taken to task by many speakers for their delay in looking at free data models, particularly as content producers are looking at free content models.
The pay-TV market in Africa has gone up by 22 per cent and will get to 31 per cent by 2031. And with mobile broadband connections of over a billion in 2022, and the increasing affordability of smartphones, it opens up huge opportunities in the mobile content space, said Charles Dawes, Tivo senior director, International Marketing.
Among the most significant trends discussed in the television and film industry in Africa, were:
- The rise of Netflix and Video on Demand (VOD) is a threat to revenue in the television broadcasting sector.
- The majority of content viewed is now through a connected device, half of it on mobile.
- New business models are being developed in the industry as customers want instant gratification and technology fills the gap. “Technology needs to enable, and operations need to adapt,” urged Julian Ankiah, GM of Media Technology at DStv.
- Consumers expect total coverage in their homes: with all devices connected everywhere.
- Consumers want ease of use: easy to install, easy to connect, everything just works and connects to multiple devices, including home networks.
- Bandwidth is the new global currency for consumers and new technologies continue to drive demand performance and massive investment in Wi-Fi networks.
- New subscription-based models that allow cost breakdown with any number of channels for choice, are emerging in Africa. “We try to create as many templates as possible, so everyone has a choice; and we try to create the same experience on any device, from smart TV to tablet,” said Cees van Versendaal, executive sales manager, Mware Solutions.
- Bring African content to the world – Africa needs to create its own content for its local audiences, as well as for export, as opposed to only importing international content for broadcast. The time is right as more players pop up on the continent to serve an audience hungry for local content in indigenous languages.
- Fake news content is now reported to generate more user interaction than real journalism, which threatens the credibility of global media and broadcasters.
- The scourge of copyright remains an issue and needs to be combatted vigorously as it impacts on the quality of content shared.
- Service is king, not content. “There is a new scramble for Africa… this time for content,” said Momoh. “Drop that ‘For Sale’ mentality, we must now own and produce our own content.”
- Operators are looking at Android as a platform for building compelling television services due to the access to apps and content on the big screen; as well as enriching user engagement. “Most importantly, we need to bring devices to the consumer that enables consumer access to all service that they want, when they want it, so the subscriber does not have to switch to another device,” said Tor Helge Kristiansen, EVP principal architect, Conax.
- Changes in technology will allow more niche channels at a lower cost across Africa – again feeding the demand for local content and programming.
- Data is the future of the monetisation of content, according to Tivo’s Dawes.
- And, what will the consumer want next? More devices! This is according to Phil Cardy, regional VP sales, Arris.
As Momoh said: “Local has become global. The responsibility of the broadcaster has increased immensely. We must be very proactive to re-examine our methods and explore new ways of doing business.
“We hope Africa will take centre stage. Arica needs a clear development agenda with practical solutions for the development of its broadcast architecture and systems. The media in Africa holds great potency to change the current narrative of the continent.”
Written by Louise Marsland