DISCOP 3 in Dakar: Seen and heard at Africa’s key media market

Distribution

The DISCOP media market seems to go from strength to strength. The third edition was held in Dakar 24-26 February 2010 and attracted over 400 participants. Sellers reported a steady flow of business and a more professional approach to business, reports Russell Southwood of Balancing Act who attended the event.

Seen and heard at the event:

* The Kenyan Government has spent US$24.79 m out of the US$74.38 m allocated to the digital transition on transmission infrastructure. KBC currently has the only signal carrier through a separate subsidiary, Signet. Up until the full transition in 2012, it will carry all current broadcasters’ programmes for free, after which it will charge signal carriage fees. Set-top boxes are currently selling for US$99.17 and there is a brisk trade from those who can afford them. Most believe the price should be US$25. There is now a discussion with Treasury about whether taxes can be removed from the price.

* Chinese pay-TV operator and DTT vendor’s CEO Xing Xing Pang of Star TV said it had established eight DTT systems in Africa, including Tanzania (where it is trialling with TBC) and Nigeria (where it is working with NTA). It is also doing trials in Guinea, Uganda, Kenya and Central African Republic. It has so far only achieved 5,000 pay TV subscribers in Rwanda with its 60 channel offer. However, it is a force to be reckoned with as the EPL item below shows.

* Thema’s channel for the African diaspora in France now has 60,000 subscribers and the service will be launched in Belgium shortly. Thema’s Francois Thiellet said he was just waiting for confirmation of DRC content and that the bouquet would be different to the French one. Belgium will be followed by Germany, Italy and Spain. Thiellet has been pleasantly surprised by the progress of the French channel:”In France, we projected 70,000-100,000 subscribers in 2 years but we’ll actually reach 100,000 this year.” It has be piloting a VOD service which has attracted subscribers in “the low thousands”: each on average downloads 50 programmes and films a month:”Bandwidth costs are very high and we want to give it time to develop before we roll it out to another operator.” Ever enterprising, he will launch a channel of African content in Europe focused on African productions including TV movies, films, documentaries and an arts, culture and entertainment magazine programme. It will focus on francophone and Nigerian and South African content.

* OSMI (formerly Optima Media) are rumoured to have spent US$12 million winning the EPL Free-To-Air rights. It is launching a TV station affiliate programme in the Autumn to address pan-continental advertisers. Hi-TV won the Pay TV EPL rights for Nigeria bidding a rumoured US$120 million. The Hi-TV inspired consortium bid the highest amount for the rest of Africa Pay TV rights but because of the perceived commercial risk, the Premier League asked for 50% of the bid sum up front and the consortium were unable to come up with it. So in a second round of bidding Supersport raised its bid to a rumoured US$80 million. Star TV bid by itself but was not successful but we are told that its bid was comparable to the consortium bid.

* Kenya’s Wananchi (with its Zuku brand) has 14,000 Pay-TV subscribers and will be launching a DTH satellite service and a Triple Play offer (June 2010) in Nairobi. Coincidentally, Senegal’s Sonatel will also launch a Triple Play service in the same month. South African Pay TV newcomer ODM will “soft launch” in early April 2010.

* After its failure to secure the EPL TV rights for Nigeria, Daar Sat’s plans to launch seem to have been put on hold. Another Nigerian Pay TV operator, Trend TV, has folded. On a more optimist note, Nigeria’s Hi-TV has taken over Paradise Studios in Cross Rivers State (more details in a forthcoming issue). It must be infectious because M-Net is also building a studio in Lagos to provide localisation of parts of its programme offer.