Video Streaming and Digital Media Trends in Africa

April 13, 2015

The idea of Internet-based TV services is not a new one to those of us who’ve lived in Western World, and the arrival of options of IP-Tv in Africa means it’s now something most people in the continent can access pretty readily. But does anyone in Africa actually give a damn?According to data available from research, the answer is “possibly not”. At a recent IP-Tv briefing on major trends for 2015 which I attended, one of the American researcher argued that IPTV providers had taken too long to build up a viable service and hadn’t realized how the rapid emergence of video sharing sites means that the demand for specific channels of IPTV content would drop as a result. In short, he said that there is no business case for IPTV because lots of things have changed in the last three years.Given that many Africans are still on a connection where watching TV can be a variable experience, this might change once countries see National Backbone Network speed connections become more widely available. But even then, according to an Austrian based researcher on IP-Tv there isn’t overall market penetration in African countries ever rising above 5%, and that’s a best-case scenario.

A major factor in that scenario is the fact that Africans now increasingly watch clips on YouTube and other similar sites rather than individual programs.That doesn’t necessarily happen on a big screen in countries like Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya after all, in Africa people that Internet enabled TVs actually end up being connected.However, they can easily catch those clips on our notebooks or tablets, which appears to be more than enough for many of them.Those who don’t know, Internet Protocol Television is a service that uses the internet or a local area network to deliver TV services, rather than via cable, terrestrial or satellite. It is generally very similar to cable TV services in its implementation and functionality. Often it is available through only specific providers, or relies on hardware like a set-top box. Internet Television tends to be more open in its business models. It does not rely on a specific provider or device. Rather, it just uses the internet in general to distribute its content. Examples of Internet Television are global market leaders like Netflix and Quick-flix.Being Internet-based services, any IPTV or Internet TV video content that a user stream is going to use up their monthly cap.

Streaming a film will use up just as much data as downloading it would, which is something to keep in mind if as a user you have a limited cap. That means you’ll need a large monthly allowance if you’re planning on consuming a lot of content.Speed is a factor and when you have trouble streaming YouTube in HD then you might run in to problems with any other streamed video, especially if you share your connection with other users.Driven by the successful US-based Netflix video streaming service from America, Several African companies have launched new video streaming services or updated their services.The original IPTV concept model is making something of a comeback, with new video streaming services launched over higher-speed broadband networks and the introduction of competitively priced triple-play models.However, digital rights constraints are making it impossible for the services to take a larger share of the entertainment content market. It is therefore free catch-up TV series rather than movies and sport that are driving the current developments. Movie content available under the basic IPTV subscription are mostly B or C rated. A rated material and new releases are only available at extra charges.Contador Harrison remains pessimistic about the current African commercial video streaming business models of most of the players and I predict that consolidation will have to happen from next year.

Until now services offered by ISPs have failed to attract significant paying-user bases in early 2015 there were only around 130 million subscribers globally, and some 200,000 in Africa.By far the largest growth in video entertainment comes from user-generated content services and a whole new range of services of short, and even super-short, videos.Catch-up TV is likely to be the second largest category in Africa.These developments will significantly influence video streaming developments and future models will therefore have to be substantially different from those of today. The best way to envisage this in African markets is to look at the smart devices which provide ‘app-like’ interfaces to new content services that supply instant streaming.Statistics available for African market estimates that downloading and streaming of video constituted well over 40% of all regular online video usage, and that is expected to increase over time.There is a correlation between the availability of high-speed broadband and video streaming usage and it is envisaged that further increases in high-speed broadband penetration will drive new video streaming developments. The rapid growth of smartphones and tablets is also giving this market a boost, as well as new business models such as pay-per-view. New video streaming services are already being streamed over these devices as well as over gaming devices.

Contador Harrison