Broadcasting in Africa – an evolving landscape

Our regional senior director of market development & marketing of Africa, Christoph Limmer

The year of 2011 has seen many changes in the African broadcasting market. And more is expected to come before November 2015 – the continent’s deadline for digital migration.

One such change that is happening today, as observed by us, is the increase in number of channels in the broadcasting market.

Our regional senior director of market development & marketing of Africa, Christoph Limmer, says: “Local pay-TV operators, such as Zuku TV in Kenya and Top TV in South Africa, have begun offering a mix of local and international channels with affordable pricing to target the growing middle class markets. This while, free-to-air broadcasting is being strengthened through advertisement-based revenue models.”

In addition, various research projects we have conducted throughout the region has shown that African consumers are more selective about their viewing habits and have a strong skew towards local productions. “It is therefore important that content providers certainly have to make sure they offer content that is relevant to the consumer,” says Limmer.

Listing Kenya as an example, Limmer points out that locally produced soaps are among the highest viewing shares, with local music channels also attracting large viewership.

“Understanding audience evolution is also another key factor to sustaining the viability of new channels. In looking at the viewing behaviours around the world, it normally takes a while for people of combined generations to embed the pace of new technologies,” comments Limmer.

“With HDTV, Mobile TV and Personal Video Recording (PVR) as well as interactive services, such as video-on-demand or catch-up TV, being on offer, the increase in viewing options will impact viewing patterns/culture - with younger generations generally adopting new broadcasting opportunities much quicker than their older counterparts.”

The challenges facing the migration process are not limited to sustaining new channels. Additional issues include the limited network infrastructure and the low number of trained installers.

“For both pay-TV operators and free-to-air broadcasters, the biggest challenge is the existing distribution network infrastructure, which only offers a limited geographical reach. In addition, the low number of qualified and trained installers across Africa leads to poor installation quality and long fulfilment time,” says Limmer.

Nonetheless as many African nations such as South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria make significant progress to migrate from analogue to digital, SES is happy to play a key role in the continent’s communication revolution. This interview was first published in IPTV.