Amos-Spacecom look set to become the challenger in the African satellite broadcast market

The African satellite broadcast market has always been extremely stable. Until recently, there were few customers (of which DStv was the largest) and few operators. Contracts were long-term and compared to satellite sales in the telecoms and satellite sectors, prices were high and relatively stable. Russell Southwood reports on the changes that might happen in 2013 with new challengers.

At a headline level, the African satellite broadcast market was relatively simple. Eutelsat had the lion’s share of the market (and still does) and Intelsat and what is now SES Astra took the balance. 

Customers fell into three categories: Pay TV operators (largely DStv and Canal Plus); national broadcasters who wanted to reach beyond their terrestrial footprint; and national broadcasters who had political reasons for wanting to be heard across part or all of the continent. The market was sufficiently cosy that there was no real price or service competition between the three operators.

What changed all that happened in another market: the telecoms and Internet sectors in Africa went over to fibre for almost all of their carriage, leaving their satellite contracts behind as quickly as they could. Satellite might sound good for redundancy in these sectors but soon their fibre use was too large to make that realistic. The net result was that among other things, all satellite operators and resellers started to think more actively about what they were doing in broadcast.

More than one operator has floated the idea of offering a “fremium” platform for African broadcasters to allow them to both rebroadcast their terrestrial content and if the broadcasters are more daring, to try their hand at becoming a Pay TV operator. The ambition has been to put together a “neighbourhood” of free and paid African channels with the pay TV bouquets being priced at below current offerings.

Also there are in several markets, opportunities for new Pay TV challengers: for example, in the largest Pay TV market outside South Africa, Nigeria, the collapse of HiTV has left a gap that has yet to be completely filled.

Into this growing ferment of ideas has come Israeli company Amos Spacecom. According to Amos Spacecom’s SVP Sales MEA, Eyal Coppitt the broadcast is something of a closed shop:”It’s a difficult target to get into. Prices in the broadcast market are too high and there’s not enough attention given to the broadcaster’s needs, particularly small, new operators.”

It has slowly put together a range of Africa channels on its Amos 5 satellite. These include: Muvi TV (Zambia), Africa Unite TV (Zambia), OHTV (see video clip interview link below), MTV Base Africa and in West and Central Africa, Kingdom TV and Wassa Man TV. Others coming in for 2013 are IDS, Infinity (Nigeria with 3-5 encrypted channels) and Multimesh (Nigeria). In addition, it has international channels including Reuters Live and Fashion TV Europe. As Coppitt sees it, getting a neighborhood in place is a chicken and egg problem. You need the channels to come in but you won’t get them easily until they see others are coming in. 

The viewers wanting to get these channels simply need a standard satellite set-top-box. Amos Spacecom has not yet worked out a way to accurately provide statistics on numbers of boxes in the market, the data that advertisers will want. But they are providing other significant support:”We can support our broadcasters with promotions for new channels and we can support their uplink channels. If they want, the involvement from their side can be very small.”

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For new video clip interviews, click on the links below:

Akin Salami, OHTV on its increased satellite coverage over Africa and its new IPTV box 

Simbarashe Mabasha, on this new South African VOD platform

Yoel Kenan on the African music market, local talent, killing choruses and mobile digital platforms

Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a new film and music mobile platform

Alain Modot on the media in Libya - before and after the Revolution

Documentary maker Victor Buhler on The Beautiful Game, about football in Africa

Cameroonian Jean-Pierre Bekolo on Africa’s first sci-fi, lesbian vampire movie Les Saignantes

Nigerian Tunde Kelani on his latest film MAAMi and his upcoming projects




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