interview


Christoph Limmer, senior director of marketing and market development for Africa, SES

We speak to Christoph Limmer, senior director of marketing and market development for Africa at broadcasting services firm SES.

What developments have you witnessed in Africa’s broadcasting industry in the past 12 months?

The broadcasting market in Africa has continued increasing over the last year. On one hand, local pay-TV operators like Zuku TV in Kenya, Top TV in South Africa, or Infinity TV in Nigeria are offering an attractive mix of local and international channels with affordable pricing to target the growing middle class markets.

On the other hand, the free-to-air broadcasting environment is also strongly increasing, mainly through advertisement-based revenue models. Finally, digital migration stimulates the development and launch of new local and international channels across Africa.

What challenges have you encountered as a result of this progress?

We have discovered various challenges based on the different business models of the broadcasters. Looking at pay-TV operators, the biggest challenge is the existing distribution network infrastructure. The number of qualified and trained installers across Africa is very low, leading to poor installation quality and long fulfilment time.

When it comes to free-to-air broadcasting, certainly the biggest challenge is the paucity of quality audience research data, which is mainly needed to attract advertisers. Finally, terrestrial networks only offer a limited geographical reach which makes it almost impossible for broadcasters to reach 100% of the population.

How do you believe new technologies can improve viewer engagement?

Even before talking about what new technologies can offer, we should take into account that one major impact of digitalisation will be the availability of more TV channels in combination with better picture and sound quality.

As next step, HD TV will certainly increase the viewer experience further as well as interactive services like video-on-demand or catch-Up TV. Mobile TV and Personal Video Recording (PVR) will also improve and change the viewing habits of the consumer in the future.

What role do you think online video will eventually take within the overall mix of television technologies in Africa?

You need to differentiate between free online portals like YouTube and paid services. It will certainly depend on the following factors: the availability of high quality bandwidth, the attractiveness of the content and finally the pricing.

For example, in Europe all these factors already exist today but still the role of online video is marginal, since linear TV still plays a significant role in the viewing habits of the consumer. Over time, online services in Africa will certainly also play a bigger role but at this stage traditional TV services are still dominating.

How do you believe content providers can best tap these new opportunities?

Independently of new technologies, content providers certainly have to make sure they offer content that is relevant to the consumer. We at SES have discovered in various research projects that African consumers get more selective about their viewing habits and also have a strong skew towards local productions.

In Kenya for example, locally produced soaps are among the highest viewing shares; local music channels attract more and more viewership. Moreover, the new services offer additional business models for content providers offering their programmes to consumers anywhere at anytime.

How quickly do you think viewer behaviour will change?

It will depend a lot on the generations. Looking closely at the viewing behaviours around the world, it normally takes a while for people of combined generations to embed the pace of new technologies.

Learnt behaviours will not change immediately, since consumers have established them over the years. For instance, younger generations will adopt new broadcasting opportunities much quicker as this is part of their daily media activity.

Which markets do you think offer some key insights into the future direction of Africa’s broadcast market?

Different markets across Africa have already taken the next steps into the future of broadcasting. Recently, an operator announced it will offer video-on-demand services in South Africa.

Furthermore, other countries like Kenya, Ghana or Nigeria are making significant progress when it comes to digital migration and the number of mobile TV offerings is also constantly growing. Today at SES, we don’t see one outstanding country in Africa that offers key insights as the majority of markets already contribute to the future of TV in Africa.
Christoph will be speaking at the AfricaCast 2011 event taking place in Cape Town, South Africa on 9th-10th November 2011. For more information and to register, please click here


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