Nigeria: From Cannes to Vaga, a Defining Moment for Broadcasting

Regulation & Policy

Last Monday morning the 2008 MIPTV featuring Mila opened in Cannes South of France for a world voracious for global content to drive the soul of television, while by weekend, the National Association of Broadcasters Conference, NAB, will open in Las Vegas in the State of Nevada. No doubt this is one of the most defining moments of global television in history.

This is a time the cut over from analogue to digital TV has started in most parts of the world, even as broadcasters are shopping for products of the future which will match their digital transmission mode. There is a leg into the future and countries are just at a rush who gets in there first.

This is also a great moment for other emerging technologies. The world is looking for different platforms to use content. Attention is thus shifting from traditional avenues like television, theatres and others channels to quickies like mobile handheld devices which make it possible for people to watch content on the go.

America is making the most of the moment. This is the last NAB before the entire country goes digital on February 17, 2009, and the buzz is on for people not to be taken unawares by the cut over date. The country does not want to have a citizenry that won't be able to see TV, you know, the right to information thing.

The NAB itself, a voice for more than 8, 300 radio and TV stations is leading an awareness campaign costing over one billion dollars to educate the American people while the country is giving out two coupons worth $40 each to ensure that homes are able to procure new TV sets or at least by set top converters that cost from $40 each.

On the floor of the event which is also the biggest broadcast equipment exhibition in the world, the conference will feature a session on DTV Transition: Partnership opportunities for Cable operators and Broadcasters. This is the time for big business and every operator is looking for an opportunity to put a leg through the door.

Digital TV will create great opportunities including more channels the operators will have free to fill with new contents. More than ever before content makers have a giant pipe to fill with digital materials and that is more business to those involved in the generation.

But Nigeria is not totally left out in this great advancement in broadcasting. In fact, after initial reluctance, the country is actually leading the rest of Africa in the digital march. Only mid March, the Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. John Odey, at a meeting with Cable TV operators gave the orders that the operators should go digital by the end of April 2008.

They are the first set of broadcasters in the country that will be going digital although Daar Communications has been investing heavily in digital facilities in the past five years. The digital journey has also been abbreviated in a way.

Instead of the 2015 originally scheduled by the regulator, the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, the set date for Nigerian TV stations to go full digital is 2012. Interestingly the concern of government may go beyond issuing ultimatums and deadlines.

The Minister by weekend will be leading a group of Nigerian broadcasters and officials of the NBC to Las Vegas to see firsthand and for the first time, happenings in the global industry. No doubt his experience may impact on what happens in the country's broadcast industry henceforth. It may be interesting for him to look at how America and the rest of the world are handling their movement to the digital platform.

While the biggest hardware show splashed with conferences is holding in Vegas, the biggest content show is holding in Cannes with the broadcast world gathered in that beautiful city to buy TV contents and do some programme commissioning with content makers.

In the previous year, more than 3, 700 buyers from TV, Internet, Mobile, IPTV, VOD Telecom, In-flight Entertainment and Licensing companies gathered at the Palais, venue of the event to shop for programme, and more are expected by this year's projection.

However, this year both Cannes and Vegas are almost unanimous in the way they are responding to mobile content which is becoming big business. While Vegas has a whole section devoted to mobile content, Cannes is setting aside a whole day as Mobile Media Day.

In fact the theme of the Cannes gathering is Audience on the Move, and one of the dignitaries expected is Didier Lombard, Chairman and CEO, France Telecom and this keenly interprets the growing relationship between TV and Telecoms. MIPTV 2008 has 40 sessions featuring over 150 entertainment innovators.

What is most interesting is the direction the world is headed with digital broadcasting and mobile content. This explains why HiTV's Toyin Subair is in Cannes to introduce his channels to the world and buy international content although manning his Stand alone after the French Embassy aborted his dream of sending a big team for a major impact for not providing the necessary travel documents; it is also the reason Daar Communications Chairman, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi is in Cannes buying content for his new vision.

Vanguard (Lagos) 9th April 2008