The front-runners in the race to make the transition to digital broadcasting are now facing a range of issues including: who runs the signal carrier?; how those who can’t afford a decoder will pay for it; unrealistic deadlines and the absence of any public campaign to explain the process. The politicians seem scared by a process that could affect their citizen’s ability to watch television and are seeking to control the discussion about what’s going to happen. Russell Southwood looks at the early news from the front-runners.
Africa’s broadcast and film sectors continue to grow. There are more channels, more local content and a growing professionalism. But margins on advertising remain low in many of the more competitive markets and too many companies are still run by managements who don’t understand how to run things as a business. Broadcasting is a prestige profession and therefore attracts many “wannabe’s”. This years Broadcast and Film Africa Conference in Nairobi (see details below) combines presentations, panels and workshops to look at how to build a world class electronic media industry in Africa.
The ITU deadline agreed by most African countries for the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting is only four years away. Elsewhere in the world, the transition has taken between 3 to 14 years to complete so time is running out. Knowing the difficulties of rolling out terrestrial digital (DTT) broadcast equipment, the satellite companies are putting forward DTH satellite as an alternative. Thus far no Government has yet taken up the idea but as the deadline nears it’s worth thinking about.
One stepping stone from buying international content to producing more local content is the use of TV formats that have established themselves elsewhere. Reality and game shows have already established themselves in the market but there is a wider range of formats out there. Africa Interactive, a fast growing multimedia press and content agency in Africa, has put together some interesting TV formats aimed at the African market and Africa lovers globally. Sylvain Béletre from Balancing Act interviewed Pieter Van Twisk, CEO of Africa Interactive to find out more.
Russian-owned General Satellite Corporation threw its hat into the ring to become a contender in the race to provide a credible DTH Free-To-Air satellite service across the continent. Others are in the wings and so this will be a race to watch over the next 12-18 months. Balancing Act’s Sylvain Beletre talks to General Satellite Corporation’s Head of Project Management Ms Polina Potapova about looking for joint ventures with African companies to realise its plans.
Ghallywood almost certainly came before Nollywood but somehow Ghanaians are too modest for their own good. This week sees the opening of Shirley Frimpong Manso’s Adam’s Apples, an innovative ten-part film series full of Wahala (that’s trouble, to you and me). But the innovation doesn’t stop there as her partner Ken Attoh of Sparrow Films has devised a way to cut down piracy when the film is shown in cinemas. Sylvain Beletre and Russell Southwood spoke these Ghanaian film innovators.
African films producers have often found it hard to get global distribution. The low road through international film festivals and the high road through attending Cannes (see Distribution below) are both time-consuming and expensive. Now the digital revolution offers film-makers the opportunity to reach out globally to both the African diaspora and all those interested in movies from the continent. VoD platforms offer this new opportunity to African film makers.
Once upon a time, African broadcast was simple. You were a TV station and you organised your own content and transmission, vertically integrated all the way. Your transmission was a combination of terrestrial transmitters and satellite links to them. Users simply had a TV aerial, which they moved about a bit until they caught the signal. Then along came Pay TV, which delivered content using satellite signals, dishes and set-top boxes. So far, so simple, says Russell Southwood.
TNT Africa is the brand name of Digital TV, a private Gabonese company that offers FTA and Pay TV bouquets using a digital DTT platform. As in many African countries, the private sector is outpacing the Government in moving ahead with the digital transition. Sylvain Béletre from Balancing Act (market research and consultancy company) talked to Morgan Juteau, Development Manager at Digital TV about the ambitions of the company.
Last week Thursday saw the first premiere of a Nollywood movie – The Mirror Boy – in the heart of London’s cinemaland at the Empire, Leicester Square. However, this event was simply the culmination of over five years of work on encouraging premiers and theatrical release for Nollywood movies in the UK. With a new wave of more cinematic releases from Nollywood makers, they seem to be on the verge of a breakthrough into international theatrical release. Russell Southwood spoke to Moses Babatope, the Special Projects Manager, Odeon Cinemas about how things are changing.