Kenya: Technology Shift to Drive New Innovations in Digital Broadcasts

Technology & Convergence

The visual broadcasting industry is set for radical changes over the next five years as policy and technology shifts drive new innovation in the sector, analysts say.

Aside from the expected shifts arising from the country's transition to digital broadcasting in the next three years, industry players are gearing up for new ventures in unexplored formats, driven by the convergence of technologies that has seen the lines dividing various sectors in the communications industry blur.

"Convergence is now threatening traditional broadcasting. It would not be a surprise if the next big TV station is Safaricom TV or Google TV because most of the digital signals will be carried via communication networks. As voice becomes competitive, the meat will lie in content and its channels of distribution," said Dr Bitange Ndemo, the Information PS, during a recent online discussion on the issue.

The looming changes are spurred by the industry move towards digital broadcasts, which has eased the entry barrier for new entrepreneurs and expanded the definition of traditional broadcasts. The arrival of international fibre optic links that allow for more services has inspired players like Wananchi Group to diversify its offering to include a new broadcasting division, which the former internet firm is in the process of establishing in the hopes that it shall become an end-to-end multimedia company.

A handful of Kenyan companies are already eying the internet as a new channel through which local productions can be aired online. Kenya Data Networks, Safaricom, Symbiotic and KenTV are some of the companies who hope to ride on the growth of internet services in the country to boost their revenue streams in coming months.

Both KDN and Safaricom have launched interactive portals where local content is accessible online, while Symbiotic and KenTV have been developing local programmes for use online.

Traditional broadcasters such as NTV, KTN and KBC are also using channels such as YouTube and JumpTV to highlight popular programmes aired on their terrestrial stations.

A growing number of local firms are banking on the fact that in more advanced markets such as the United States, Internet TV (IPTV) and Cable TV are more widespread than the free to air TV format that is popular in this market.

Meanwhile, a new initiative being fronted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will soon push content developers to alter the way they develop programming for viewers in coming years.

New 3D TV technologies being developed under the auspices of ITU will have major implications for the film and television production sector, as content will need to be filmed using special new equipment in order for viewers to enjoy the full 3D experience.

Last week, ITU released a new report outlining a roadmap for future 3D TV implementation, which envisages systems so smart they accurately mimic the way our eyes and brains perceive the visual world.

The new roadmap would see 3D TV technology rolled out in three successive generations (technically known as profiles). This would be the second major shift in the industry following the advent of digital broadcasting, an initiative that is also being spear-headed by ITU.

Business Daily 20th January 2010