Broadcast Equipment for Africa

As you may read about, on our website, we regularly work in Africa. From high-profile multichannel TV services to small, cost effective radio and TV studios, we’ve worked on a wide variety of projects.

25 years ago, Phil had the privilege of launching a couple of radio stations in Zambia (still going today).

Through the many contacts he’s made – including former colleagues who have gone on to greater things – we are often approached by entrepreneurs in Africa wanting to launch their first radio station or TV channel.

On occasion, we have also received donated kit and provided this to broadcast startups in Africa to great success.

Should you have any equipment that is still operational, specifically for radio (but potentially also for TV), we would be very pleased to talk to you to arrange for it to be donated to broadcasters in Africa. Once donated, you would have no further responsibility for this equipment e.g. for Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and to guarantee this, we would offer to purchase the equipment for a very small nominal sum, ensuring you have a full audit trail of disposal. Your donation would help media plurality in Africa and will be warmly welcomed. We would be very pleased, if required, to provide photographs of your equipment being used in situ.

An industry in transition

Intensified competition also brings with it increased confusion for viewers, and content curation becomes more important for OTT services to find success.

This March, the annual Connected TV World Summit continued its journey to help the industry transform itself.

It’s a sign of our industry’s growing maturity that more than 90% of operators now have some form of VOD on their set-top boxes, according to Jon Watts of consultants MTM, but innovation is starting to become polarised—its only the industry “whales” that have the ability and scale to really invest in innovation.

It’s not just a story of maturity, though. It’s also a story of intensified competition—telcos offering video; pay TV offering video; pure OTT providers (YouTube and Netflix) offering video; and broadcast channels offering their video direct to viewers (including former cable stalwarts Disney and HBO). Competition can be confusing to viewers, though.

One useful new service that manages to peer into Netflix and 9 other UK services (even though Netflix turned off API access a year and a half ago) is Everyflix. Launched by former ASOS head of tech Simon Hamblin, Everyflix aggregates and shows all of those services’ video content, combined with data from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. It is intuitive and useful for viewers, but more interesting for conference-goers was the data already collected and series of graphs that retail expert Simon showed.

For example, according to Everyflix, Sky’s Now TV has the highest “average movie IMDb rating” with Amazon Prime the lowest of all 10 services; iTunes has the highest total movie count (by a long way) and Netflix had just about the worst “Family Genre – Average IMDb” score of all. Move over utility comparison websites, we’ve now got a useful tool to choose which video service is best!

With all these platforms pouring content into our screens, it’s no surprise that the overall consumption of video (including linear channels) is up, says Sky director of strategy Nick Herm. But viewing habits vary hugely across the audience, and a single product is clearly no longer sufficient, hence Sky’s focus on understanding its viewers and creating services that match these requirements. Consider NowTV (pay lite, dip in when you want, soon with integrated DTT tuner); Sky+ (multichannel payTV with its growing library of on-demand content) and new SkyQ (premium, UHD support, flexible, whole house service).

However, the down-side of this greater choice is succinctly summarised by Ericsson’s Simon Frost, who suggested, politely, that the media value chain is “disrupted.”

The problem for broadcasters (and the opportunity for services such as Everyflix) is that the key audience of millennials are “delivery agnostic.” A couple of UK examples will perhaps show why—Sherlock, the highly rated BBC detective drama can currently be seen on Amazon Prime, Amazon (to buy), iTunes, Blinkbox (from TalkTalk) and Netflix. How to Train Your Dragon is on Amazon, iTunes, Blinkbox, Sky Store, and Virgin. And those are just the legitimate channels.

Viacom’s Christian Kurz, as well as sharing the company’s audience trends with us (through its International Insights website), also showed a video summarising extensive youth interviews (more than 65,000) from 2015. To quote from memory one young viewer, “If I get a message saying [this content] is not available in your country, it’s frustrating, but I know how to get round it.

It’s a timely reminder, that, as Wired reports in its April UK edition, “as many as one in four people” use VPNs and “by far the most popular ‘need’ globally is the need to access [geographically blocked] entertainment content.” And this, coincidentally, appears in the same magazine that comes with 12 pages of advertisement for SkyQ.

If the audience really is becoming delivery agnostic, but they still love video content, do we risk going the way of the music industry? That was the question posed by Jette Nygaard-Andersen from MTG. 15 years after the peak for the U.S. music industry with CDs responsible for more than 90% of revenue, the U.S. music industry is now only half the size, with digital sales taking perhaps 60% of the revenue. Yet the passion is still there—of the top 20 videos on YouTube, 18 are music. The most loved celebrity on Facebook is a music star. The most followed celebrity on Twitter is a music star. Ours is an industry in transformation, and to “follow the eyeballs”, esports and multichannel networks are becoming a key part of MTG’s digital transformation.

To survive, summarised Kai-Christian Borchers from 3 Screen Solutions, you just have to be uniquely the best in the market. As Facebook found, native mobile apps are much more successful than a generic HTML5 app due to better speed and functionality . Or, to continue the music industry parallels, a top dance DJ “steers” the crowd at a music festival, and he just couldn’t do that if he was just running a Spotify playlist. Borchers suggests broadcasters aim for top performance and fast-changing features, have a very clear focus and a very clear USP, and don’t just use a specification with a million items of shopping list features put together by a consultant!

We’ve nowhere near finished the industry transformation, but events like Streaming Forum and Connected TV Summit provide great meeting places to learn and share ideas. Here’s to a disruptive future—long may it continue!

In search of hybrids

In the early 20th century, a new profession – orchid hunter – emerged. The unusual shape and colours of the flower caused Europeans to develop ‘orchid fever’, and orchid hunters faced tropical diseases, snakes and deadly competitiveness in their attempts to collect the beautiful, fragrant flowers.

Orchids are ideal to cross breed – to create hybrids. Since the days of ‘orchid fever’, hundreds of thousands of hybrid orchids have been grown. These new hybrids can be beautiful and are often more fertile and easier to care for than their original orchid ancestors.

This November, we’re back in Cape Town for another Africacom, and thanks to SES, another Industry Day – ID 18 – packed full of insights about broadcasting in Africa, before the main conference starts.

Africa is unique. Don’t dare call Africa a country! It’s a continent of uniqueness, including some unusual broadcast characteristics.

AFRICAN FTA IS STRUGGLING

Apparently, only 10% of African TV viewers are watching free to air (FTA) TV while 90% are on pay TV. This is the opposite of the usual pattern, and that ratio is just not enough to bring in enough FTA viewers to generate good advertising revenue to support production of great content. It’s a virtuous circle usually – just not in Africa at the moment! OK, it’s a sweeping generalisation which Africa (and hardworking, innovative broadcasters and production companies) don’t deserve but … it rings true. Africans are proud of Africa and want to watch their own content, but the market – so far – is struggling to nurture it.

COLLABORATION AND INNOVATIVE BUSINESS MODELS

SABA, the Southern African Broadcasting Association seems to agree, explaining that state broadcasters are not well funded and there is little they can do as individual broadcasters. But innovating through collaboration could be the way forward. Instead of a population of 2 million, an audience of 370m in SABA is an entirely different proposition for advertisers. Initially, SABA is setting up a news exchange, but the next step will be a sub-Saharan news channel, with multilingual subtitling.

Innovative business models are also front-of-mind. Traditional broadcasters are losing audience to YouTube (etc), so what business models can help broadcasters change their mindset? The NBC (Namibia) is trying, funding a select team of young people creating local films. And mobile/OTT delivery shouldn’t be an add-on, for the youth mobile is their primary viewing device. With OTT delivery comes data, and keynote speakers at ID18 argued that audience + data = monetisation.

A compelling presentation by Surie Ramasary (Cell C’s OTT CEO) highlighted that an OTT service needs to offer local content, including local sports and music, and prevent barriers to sign-up. While credit cards may not be common, Surie highlighted that even asking for an email address can be a barrier – one that was overcome, when Cell C asked instead for a mobile number.

THE HYBRID FUTURE

As to the future of TV, it’s our belief that a consensus emerged – a hybrid model. For many countries, DTT is just too expensive (just ask the Zambian government) and perpetuates the digital divide (serving urban areas and failing to reach the rural); satellite covers the entire country but the entire country can’t receive it (e.g. Uganda’s 2014 census reports only 10% of rural households have electricity) so OTT/mobile (including solar-power mobile chargers) is an essential part of the mix (again in Uganda’s 2014 census, there was over 50% penetration of mobile in rural/urban areas).

Much like the orchid hunters of the early 20th century, the pioneering and competitive work of early African broadcasters has laid the foundations. In the 21st century, we can look towards a hybrid future – a future in which the best of technology can be combined, to create a fertile infrastructure the supports the production of indigenous content that educates, informs and entertains – in a proudly African way. Bring it on!

London, Kampala, Tallinn


+44 20 7078 4306 | info@jukwa.com | Head Office:
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Jukwa Group provides broadcast and OTT consultancy to clients in Europe and Africa.

We can support you from the business plan for a new TV channel or platform to reinvigorating your programme content or sales activity.