South African free-to-air (FTA) commercial broadcaster e.tv has commissioned new local content across its various channels, including some of the new channels that launch on 15 October 2013 on sister company Platco Digital’s new FTA platform, OpenView HD.
The new channels are eKasi+ (local content), eAfrica+ (African content), eToonz+ (kids progamming), and eMovies+ (films).
e.tv’s head of Channels, Monde Twala, admits that filling eKasi+ with round-the-clock local content tailor-made to appeal specifically to township viewers, will be a key challenge in the next few years.
“It will require innovation in the manner in which business models around content are structured,’ explains Twala. “Content ideas are not an issue and South Africa has a very healthy and competitive production sector that is able to deliver compelling and creative programming.
“However, we need to be cautious and work together as an industry; more channels do not necessary result in more production work. We need to look at sustainable ways to be able to fund and also recoup investments made by broadcasters and local producers.’
As from October this year all of e.tv’s locally commissioned content will be delivered and produced in high definition (HD).
Twala continues: “This includes all international content such as movies, kids’ animation and series. HD content will be phased in over a period, across all our themed channels. Content that is not filmed in HD will be upgraded as it is a standard for HD broadcasts worldwide.
“We are working closely with the production sector and international suppliers to ensure that we deliver a better and improved quality picture for our market. This also means South Africa will remain on par with international benchmarks and that the TV consumers in the country will be the ultimate winners. We have seen significant growth in HDTV sales and as a broadcaster we have to move with consumer trends.’
There has been much media speculation as to whether e.tv’s decision to launch its new channels on OpenView HD (an FTA satellite platform) was motivated by South Africa’s disastrously delayed digital terrestrial television (DTT) project. The migration to DTT has yet to commence and after June 2015, the International Telecommunications Union will no longer protect the analogue signal in Africa.
Twala responds: “It is e.tv’s strategy to be platform agnostic and make our channels available wherever it makes business sense. The fact that e.tv’s channels are available on OpenView HD should not be seen as competition to DTT. We are committed to South Africa’s digital migration process and look forward to launching a bouquet of channels on this complementary platform.”
As to whether e.tv’s four new channels were originally planned for DTT, Twala comments: “e.tv has always been planning for expansion and growth. Our channels have been developed over a period of time.”
He notes that e.tv decided to launch eAfrica+ because the broadcaster has been active outside South Africa since July 2009 with a view to become the number one entertainment network in Africa.
“Our research has proved that Africans are passionate about high quality African content produced by and for Africans,’ says Twala.
When asked how eAfrica+’s offering will differ from that of M-Net’s AfricaMagic pay-TV channels, Twala describes eAfrica+ as “the destination of choice for free pan-African entertainment’.
The channel will showcase original African stories, created by Africans, for Africans.
Content will range from African music, drama and news to the popular Nollywood genre.
“African content goes beyond just Nollywood movies, we have creative and diverse stories and programming to showcase, like fashion and documentary programming,” says Twala.
All the new channels are the result of a full market study and review of trends around TV consumption and genres, along with a clear brand alignment.
“It’s taken us a good few years to get the recipe right, and we continue to shape ourselves according to our audience’s needs,’ concludes Twala.
In terms of the revenue model for the new channels, e.tv pays transmission costs to Platco Digital and derives revenue solely from advertising.
To access e.tv’s OpenView HD offering, viewers will have to pay a once-off installation fee of R1 599 that includes a decoder and satellite dish.