14 African Business July 2019
Cover story: Broadcast media
Having taken audiences by storm elsewhere in the world, the first series of South Africa’s The Bachelor has arrived. While the format was adapted by local broadcaster M-Net, the first episode was also broadcast live on Google’s online video platform YouTube on Valentine’s Day – a clear signal that the continent’s leading content producers see online broadcasting as a crucial medium to reach young audiences.
Online content is increasingly important but the future is still bright for traditional TV.
The shift to online video content is being driven by the increasing uptake of smartphones, which reached 250m connections at the end of 2017, according to GSMA. The adoption rate is expected to double by 2025 to reach around 690m, or two thirds of total mobile phone connections.
Still, mobile internet penetration was just 21% in 2017 compared to 50% in Latin America and the Caribbean, amounting to some 211m subscribers. For many, the cost of handsets and data remains prohibitive. Africans have to spend 8.76% of their average monthly income on 1GB of mobile data, compared to 3.58% in Latin America and the Caribbean and 1.54% in Asia, according to the Alliance for Affordable Internet.
Google itself is attempting to boost these numbers, investing in its Next Billion Users initiative, which aims to offer better access to consumers in markets with low internet penetration.
“The third leg of running the YouTube business in Africa is thinking about access, thinking about user experiences, mobile data, and being conscious that we build
The shift to online video content is being driven by the increasing uptake of smartphones, which reached 250m connections at the end of 2017
our reach by building products for Africa... With the current realities around access we wouldn’t be fulfilling our mission if we didn’t focus on trying to solve some of those challenges,” says Olopade.
Nevertheless, brands are encouraged by future projections of internet availability and see online platforms as a key way to reach a younger demographic. In March, the NBA launched a YouTube channel for African fans of basketball. UEFA has partnered with local broadcasters to show football highlights, while music labels and reality producers are queuing up to sign deals.
From professional broadcasters to DIY vloggers and tutorials, YouTube’s Africa ecosystem is developing much as it has elsewhere in the world, and advertisers are taking notice.
“We are seeing the broader digital media ecosystem for advertising mature. You’re seeing growth and a slight rebalancing in advertising marketing budgets going to TV versus those going to digital. On the whole it’s still very much a collaborative ecosystem-wide change... You don’t have to choose between social media and TV,” says Olopade.
Traditional broadcasting still key Broadcasters agree that the tectonic shift to online has begun, but believe that until data costs and affordability issues are sorted out, traditional transmission will continue to play a key role in attracting audiences.
“YouTube has great potential for us and we’re engaging actively. But I see the model as complementary rather than core. Core TV and radio is our bread and butter. Online offers ancillary aspects and is important to advertisers as well. It’s short clips of content to make available to a wider audience. We can monetise that so it’s of real interest, but it’s not core – main consumption is through FM and UHF transmission,” says Hanlon.
“Even when you have a lot of people consuming content via mobile you still find they watch TV for sport, reality programmes and news,” agrees Momoh. “The future is still bright, it’s not a death knell for traditional TV... Our research shows you still have a lot watching linear TV and this will stay for a while to come. The thing is to have different strategies to get content onto many platforms.”
For now, Nigeria’s traditional broadcasters remain engaged in the dogfight for audience share. With the economy largely stagnant, competing aggressively and taking advertising revenues from other broadcasters remains crucial, as does the switch to new markets – TVC Communications is considering expansion in Kenya, South Africa and elsewhere.
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Yet Olopade provides an optimistic view of an industry where traditional and internet broadcasting thrive together.
“We see ourselves as enablers, part of the key infrastructure of the next generation of television in Africa. We may see new formats entirely born from this incredibly robust global video ecosystem, but also taking the best lessons of professional broadcast production. We’ve had some successful YouTube channels in Africa make the transition to TV, and we’ll only see more convergence, collaboration and partnership as the whole pie grows in Africa.” n