Yesterday I wrote about the future of television in Africa and how current business models will have to be shredded.The value proposition of traditional television has been to cater for a very diverse audience, produce unique content and provide high-quality journalism. This has all been paid for by TV license fees in UK or advertising revenues in other parts for the world. However, this business model seems to be broken, for a number of reasons.The internet and online streaming as a common technology platform allows content providers to focus on what they are really good at, be it sports, drama, shows or news coverage. This is a clear opportunity for TV broadcasters both mainstream and online content creators. It definitely minimises the pressure of that suffocating everything for everybody idea and opens the door for increased specialisation. The fading of traditional television starts to be a potential source of exciting and innovative programmes and formats. Going forward, the success is going to be a question of scale, the availability of up to date, high quality content on demand. Much has been written about how streaming services are likely winners in the battle for primacy in home entertainment. These companies are already fighting their own battles for dominance by expanding their libraries of on demand films, documentaries and TV shows at a breathtaking speed. The move by streaming services into original content also offers a direct challenge which bites into the core model for traditional broadcasters. The TV landscape in Africa is undergoing seismic shifts thanks to the digital revolution and the subsequent rise and rise of pirating. And the playing field is set to change yet again with the much expected expansion of Netflix and local streaming services. The tectonic plates have shifted and are still in the process of doing so, that much I already know.I also know that free to air TV is not dead yet but is on the way to intensive care unit. Not by a long shot. But a quick glance at the behaviours of today’s young people hint that the future of TV, as we know it, is far from assured.
Data in my possession shows that, in 2016, 15-30 year olds aren’t just watching less free-to-air TV or PayTV around a third, don’t watch free or Pay TV at all, in Africa. Compare these figures to those of older Africans and the trajectory of TV in Africa becomes crystal clear. While half of young people aren’t bothering with TV anymore, only 10 per cent of those aged 30-45 and 9 per cent of those of those aged 45+ say they don’t watch TV. So, as these older Africans age and move into the afterlife in coming decades, there won’t be many people left with any interest in the DSTVs and STARTIMES of this world at all.The idea of actually waiting to watch something on free-to-air or PayTV at a scheduled time was considered to be seriously out dated amongst the young Africans I spoke couple of weeks ago for a study on how Africans use TV. “You don’t wait till 7pm to watch the news anymore in Kenya. You watch it when you want to watch it,” said a Kenyan friend whom I sought views from. There’s nothing on TV that I can’t download and watch when I want to,” added a Tanzanian friend. For this generation, content on-demand isn’t just a useful option, it’s the default. The set top box has been replaced by computer and mobile screens. Your computer is your TV these days.Those still watching the set top box aren’t necessarily switching it on to consume free-to-air or PayTV. Sometimes the TV is being re-purposed as a gaming screen but most often it’s being used as a screen to view content that was downloaded or is being streamed. I used to refer to that,” says a Tanzanian friend as a TV but now I refer to it more as a “screen” because what I view on that screen is rarely live or free-to-air, she said. And then, getting to the very heart matter, a Ugandan friend told me the reasons why young people are abandoning TV in droves is that they hate to be dictated to, as to what’s going to be on that screen. The longer term outlook is even worse for the future of TV as we know it in Africa. Thanks to YouTube and other services, today’s youngsters’ very first experiences of TV are not via free-to-air broadcast out of a TV set, but rather, via mobile computer devices. Indeed,It goes without saying that when they finally grow up they will have vastly different expectations when it comes to TV content and what TV even means, and how it’s consumed. For them, the TV and what is broadcast out of it will go the way of the iPod, now relics of the old days, as my tween niece likes to say of anything used prior to when she was born.