Africa is always considered a laggard in many areas but when it comes to Television, apart from content, Africans and Americans share the same experience.In Africa, there are different broadcasting regulations are under question again following the events last month that a broadcaster has launched legal action against live streaming online by a rival broadcaster, with which it has a programming deal.The network argues the live streaming service violates an agreement with the broadcaster by live-streaming its channels into countries in which it holds commercial TV broadcast licences.The channel in question streaming service allows anyone in the world to access to the station’s broadcast via any device with an internet connection. The definition of broadcast will be a key argument within the case and whether live-streaming is the same as the traditional broadcast of television stations.The aim of the legal action is to prevent the channel live stream from being accessed within countries where the other network’s broadcast is available.Essentially the channel that has been sued is hoping to geo-block its stream, similar to the debate associated with other service providers around the world offering Video on Demand service that have gone global.But this increase in live streaming and VoD online continues to raise questions over the future of linear broadcast television in Africa.Although I would have liked to reveal the media company that has been taken to court, since the case isn’t in public domain, I remain silent for now but this was not the first African free-to-air station to start live streaming its broadcasts.The other channels that used apps as a way to entice the African audience to use the live stream services.But majority of Africa’s commercial broadcaster do not provide a full live stream. Most of the stations have a limited live stream service that includes programmes.Th is the first to launch legal action over the streaming services by rural based commercial FTA broadcasters.
It was made very clear last year that regional broadcaster were less than supportive of live streaming services.It is common to see media companies launching the new service by asking viewers what if you could take your TV anywhere and if the viewer can take their TV everywhere.The issues associated with media ownership is one big challenge that commercial broadcasters are facing.Small broadcasters currently don’t have live-streaming services, meaning any viewer who watches a live commercial television stream would be watching the national television.For the small broadcasters, this means they are losing out on any advertising revenue they receive with their traditional broadcast business model. For the viewer, it means they will not receive the any local regional content, such as local news.Small broadcasters are fighting back arguing the media laws are stuck in the 20th century and on the other side, commercial broadcasters involved in VoD services are battling with the global Over The Top to gain subscriptions. VoD service is a market that is yet to get any easier. I have said before that I believe we would see more reality and sport on commercial television as a way to focus on a service not provided by the new VoD services. But now even the reality programmes are about to have another spin in African countries with the launch of a new VoD service specially focused on reality TV. The service will have many of the titles which are available on commercial broadcasters.In addition, there are rumours that Disney is planning to launch a VoD service in several African countries, possibly in a deal with a local telecommunications company. This could impact on DSTV which currently has several dedicated channels containing Disney content.It is clear the African television industry, including the VoD services, is continuing to change at a far greater rate than we have ever seen. Policy changes will not be able to keep up pace with this rate of change. The live streaming services by commercial broadcasters have again brought African media ownership laws into focus. If television stations can now stream online, therefore effective reaching all Africans with internet access, then the media ownership reach rule is redundant.What I can’t tell now is on what impact this will have on small broadcasters, their content and audiences.