Rapid increase in the number of radio and TV channels in Africa, says new report

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Over the last ten years, the African broadcast industry has slowly been liberalising and over the last year, the pace of this process has quickened. New Free-To-Air channels are planned in an increasing number of countries and there are new entrants to the Pay-TV market which has begun to grow in size. There are shifting patterns for advertising in different media. For anyone in the industry or interested in how it has and will develop, there has been a frustrating lack of data up until now.

This week sees the publication of African Broadcast and Film Markets by Balancing Act in association with Intermedia. It is over 340 pages long and has 132 charts, 41 tables of statistical data and 12 graphic maps. It is probably the most detailed data source on both industry and audience information for the sector in Africa. The report comes in two parts: part one covers industry trends and data and part two looks at audiences. There are seventeen country user surveys covering: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

• Part 1 provides an analysis of the developing industry and has the following sections:

African industry overview – Slow but steady liberalisation: This looks at the state of liberalisation, for radio and TV; the international players in the market; the scale of broadcast advertising; and the battle for Pay-TV subscribers. The beginning of the end for Mr President TV looks at the difficult commercial position of public broadcasters and ways they might get out the trap they are in.

Other areas covered include: The costs of local and international programming; Digitilisation and High Definition– Slow progress but it is on its way; Africa’s film industry – Low output but big changes afoot; Africa goes triple-play – the early pioneers roll-out; The potential market size for Pay Television; Reaching African diaspora audiences – competing for eyeballs away from home; and Mobile TV – a technology for Africa?

• Part 2 looks at Africa’s rapidly shifting landscape through audience research from 17 key markets: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

• Each survey involves a large sample size, and is conducted through face-to-face interview, usually in the home of the respondent. The result is an unusually rich, single source for data on how Africans are interacting with traditional and emerging broadcasters and platforms, new technologies and modes of mass and inter-personal communication. It is sufficiently standardised to allow cross-comparison between countries and trend analysis across the timeframe data has been collected.

Trends picked up by Part 1 of the report include:

• Explosion in number of radio stations: The liberalisation of radio broadcasting has led to an explosion in the number of radio stations, particularly those broadcasting in local languages. These are known in East Africa as the “vernaculars” and they have been one of the growth areas of the last five years. The most vivid example of this trend is Uganda where there are now over 150 radio stations, 69% of which cater for audiences in the 38 different languages of the country.

• Success of Free-To-Air TV channels: Countries where the privately owned FTA TV channels have taken the majority of both audience and advertising revenues tend to be where fuller competition exists. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are all countries where the existence of several FTA companies means that both audiences and advertising are much more fragmented and the state broadcaster no longer necessarily has the dominant position in terms of either audience share or advertising revenues.

• TV advertising spend: Based on countries where more detailed statistics are available, overall advertising spend on television has increased slightly in some countries but declined in others. The report identifies 15 markets which have significant volumes of TV advertising.

• Growth of radio and TV ownership: On a fairly conservative projection, television ownership in the selected 40 countries surveyed will grow by an average of 17%. This growth will vary from country to country with the higher rates being found in those countries where economic growth is above the global average. Radio growth is equally strong and geographically more widespread.

• International investment: The absence of international players (except in the Pay TV market) has meant that Africa has not been viewed as a single potential market. Whilst there is an increasing level of international interest, the likely players remain regional or even sub-regional. Restrictions on foreign ownership mean that in most cases multinational investors are unable to buy direct control of these entities and are therefore unwilling to invest.

• State broadcast weakness: Where the state broadcaster competes in a more liberalised FTA TV channel environment with 4-5 competitors, the state broadcaster usually sinks to the bottom position in terms of advertising share over time or simply stays one ahead of the last new market entrant.

• Triple play and converged players: The report analyses the ten countries where there are converged operators (including cable) or telcos providing IP-TV. In each case, the size of the market is comparatively small but the numbers have continued to go upwards over the last 12 months: there are both subscriber numbers and bouquet breakdowns with rates.

The report looks at those like Telkom Media and Egyptian operator PCN who are starting to enter the market. It examines Algerie Telecom’s Fibre-To-The Home roll-out and its ambitions with IP-TV. Triple play has been hampered by backward looking African regulation on VoIP in some countries and the high cost of international bandwidth but with the arrival of several new fibre projects in liberalised East Africa in 2009 all that will begin to change.

• Rights and programming costs: One factor that has slowed down the development of the African broadcast sector has been the costs of both rights and locally produced content. This report gives a breakdown of regional production costs and the resources required to buy in international programming. In one section it looks at the battle over rights and their costs during the African Cup of Nations.

• The great mobile TV experiment: The continent is the site of one of the most extensive set of roll-out plans for mobile TV. The report has a section that covers how it is being done, the initial numbers using the services and the technologies involved.

Part 2 of the report focuses on audiences, with detailed robust survey data that tackles a range of questions including:

• Radio the dominant media in most countries: The realities of economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa mean that whilst television and radio are widely distributed in main cities, radio is the main medium for rural areas. In most of the countries surveyed, the majority of the population listen daily to the radio. That said, some countries have limited terrestrial television and as described in Part 1 of the report, there is a strong correlation between access to electricity and television ownership.

• More control, less trust: Wherever Government exerts tight control over the public broadcaster or all media, the audiences trust the resulting news output far less than they might otherwise. For example, in Egypt, the domestic media is less trusted than international outlets. The most trusted source of information is Al Jazeera. As a pan-Arab satellite giant founded by the Qatari emir, the channel is technically international or foreign. Yet Egyptians, like viewers in most Arab societies, have appropriated Al Jazeera as their own, considering it akin to a local channel.

• Popularity of imported content: Much of the most popular content tends to be music on the radio, or largely imported soaps on television. For example, in Mozambique’s main cities, private channels feature a regular diet of Portuguese and Brazilian soap material. But these are not just a feature of Portuguese-speaking markets for both Portuguese and Spanish soaps are a central programming element in Kenya.

• Hunger for music and entertainment: There is a huge appetite for FM music radio. Africans, both sub-Saharan and North African, surround themselves with music in cars, public transportation, shops and homes. Wherever deregulation has taken place, multiple FM channels have emerged. Consumers also hunger for entertainment television.

• Affordability and the size of the middle class: Many of the new converged services assume that there is an affluent audience out there who can afford to pay for them. This report contains breakdowns of the size of the middle class in each country. Where there has been above average economic growth in countries, the middle classes have actual grown significantly: for example, the Kenyan middle class has grown by several percentage points. That may sound small but the numbers run into millions of people. The user surveys tackle both media equipment ownership (televisions, radios, PCs, mobiles, satellite dishes) and also the level of usage “yesterday”. On affordability, it asks respondents whether they can afford expensive goods like televisions and fridges.

Balancing Act’s African Broadcast and Film Markets, published in association with Intermedia, is over 340 pages long and has 132 charts, 41 tables of statistical data and 12 graphic maps. Don’t say that convergence is all hype until you know what the new landscape may actually look like.



The report is priced as follows: Full price (Africa) – GBP500/US$1,000; Full price (Rest of the World) – GBP750/US$1,500; Reduced price for universities and NGOs – GBP375/US$700. Click below to order: