Upcoming Internet revolution will have tremendous impact on the African AV industry

Technology & Convergence

More than 90% of business decision-makers across Africa are expecting prices to drop and competition to increase dramatically, according to the new Telecoms Trends in Africa 2010 report. This announcement was released by World Wide Worx and Database 360 mid September 2010. The survey, conducted among 1100 Internet-using small, medium and large businesses across 20 African countries, also revealed that most African countries remain heavily reliant on slow or expensive forms of connectivity, such as dial-up and satellite. However, they are beginning the move to broadband.

As it has been seen in North America, Europe and Asia, Sylvain Beletre at Balancing Act reckons that the arrival of cheaper internet in Africa will have a long term impact on the continent’s audiovisual market. TV lovers will find that watching internet TV is a relatively simple process and allows for pausing and re-watching at any time.

“ADSL is fast becoming the standard form of business Internet access across Africa – more than 40 per cent of businesses in these 20 countries are using it,” said Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx. “However, we can see the limitations of existing infrastructure from the fact that satellite connectivity remains a key part of the mix.”

The survey revealed that more than one in five respondents said they were using satellite connectivity, with a similar number planning to add it to their options. “Satellite is the most expensive means you can possibly use to access the Internet”, says Goldstuck. The continued appetite for it tells us that, even though there is an expectation for better and cheaper connectivity, the reality on the ground remains one of limited infrastructure.

“Moreover, once businesses go online, the Internet becomes increasingly more vital to their survival, and having a backup form of access becomes increasingly more important.”

Countries like Mauritius, Ivory Coast and Namibia are already showing strong growth in ADSL usage by business, while Angolan businesses indicate the highest anticipated growth for this form of broadband.

African Internet users are expected to start using video websites such as Youtube, hulu, Dailymotion, MetaCafe, Megavideo, Myspace, yahoo video, BBC iPlayer, Pratiks.com as well as Africa’s online TV such as VoxAfrica.

The two forms of viewing Internet television are streaming the content directly to a media player or simply downloading the program to a computer. With the "TV on Demand" market growing, these on-demand portals will become a killer app for major African TV broadcasters.

The ability to watch free online TV channels from around the world is expected to reduce the number of PayTV, Free to Air and satellite audience in Africa especially among young watchers.

However, fast internet access will also allow for more interaction between TV watcher and TV stations. Telecoms operators may get richer but African TV stations will have to find alternative solutions to keep their audience and ad revenues up.

TV stations will need to start offering internet TV and partner with telecoms service providers including cable operators to add TV as part of multiple-play packages. TV stations will also need to keep an eye on content copyrights protection and on audience figures to attract advertising.

Broadcasters will have to provide programmes via "On-demand" and "Catch-up" internet services. With the advent of online television channels, TV stations will also need to extend their advertising offers through the use of internet advertising, short commercials and banner adverts. Content archive will also become a necessity requiring the use of large servers, bringing potential for more external data centres usage and broadband across Africa.