New trends in the African broadcast TV market: A view from Satellite content deliverer SatLink targets broadcasters in Africa with Over-The-Top services and Turnkey Solutions

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SatLink Communications is a pioneer in global satellite communications services and one of the 5 key contenders in the African satellite broadcast market. It is known as a leading provider of transmission solutions for Global Content Distribution over Satellite Platforms, Fibre and IP. Today, it is also focused on providing OTT solutions. Balancing Act interviewed its CEO, David Hochner to find out more on his strategy across Africa.

Above: broadcast analyst Sylvain Béletre, Balancing Act.

Q. What are Satlink’s strengths today to serve the African market and where are you present in Africa?

A. Strategically located in the heart of the Middle East, SatLink provides access to a worldwide network covering five continents and has been providing its clients with flexible and cost-effective transmission solutions for close to two decades. SatLink operates a range of premier MCPC platforms including HotBird 8, AsiaSat5, AMOS 5, Satmex 6, Telstar 12 and more. Today, Satlink is a global provider of content delivery, as well as occasional use Sports and news delivery, which is still at the forefront of our business.

In addition to this, SatLink serves leading satellite owners such as SES with different engineering services, as well as TT&C and satellite drifting.
We have been successful across Africa, especially in Nigeria during 2012 and look forward towards serving African media centres in the coming years

Q. What is your company’s business focus within the various African broadcast market segments?

A. SatLink Communications is a leading teleport and HD Playout Centre delivering content to every corner of the world. Our services consist of Playout and content management services, time delay, downlink, uplink, turn around with and without compression, encryption and the best solution be it satellite space or fibre for contribution or distribution of Video channels/programs and IP. SatLink’s new platform for DTH free-to-air and encrypted channels enables easy uplinks from Europe and downlinks in Sub Saharan Africa with dishes as small as 90 cm.
By provisioning full end-to-end broadcast solutions across three platforms on the AMOS-5 satellite C & Ku band beams, SatLink is able to provide full coverage across Africa for both international and national broadcasters looking to capitalise on this market opportunity. Over the past few years we have paid extra attention on Africa’s broadcasting environment. Viewing habits in Africa have changed rapidly, more than in other continents. The trend seems to go towards one TV set and several mobile terminals within each household. Indeed, Africans have adopted mobile technology very fast.
Occasional use of Satellite delivery for sports is one of our specialities and we have been responsible for transmitting the London 2012 Olympics, reaching vast audiences in Africa and in Asia.
I am a great believer in the African market and we are a key partner to expand the continent’s international capacity.

Q. How do you support this expansion in Africa?

A. We are implementing two measures:
First, we are increasing capabilities in the region: we work with international broadcasters in order to attract DTH and MMDS operators across Africa. Secondly, we are offering several services such as Africa to Africa’s complete turnkey solution. We are currently concentrating on Nigeria and the rest of West Africa by providing play-out and content management services, uplink and satellite capacity. When needed and if the client is asking to uplink from his own facilities, our team integrates an end to end solution for the media house ground and play-out facilities including equipment, installations and instructions. 
We have two satellite DTH (Direct to home) platforms available from Israel to English and French speaking African countries, with a great neighbourhood of leading French broadcasters such as France 24 and TV5 Monde Afrique next to local African broadcasters  in addition to a C-band platform providing Pan Africa coverage where we broadcast international broadcasters as Thomson Reuters, Viacom brands, Doordarshan Indian governmental bouquet; next to African broadcasters  transmitting from Africa or from SatLink’s Israeli teleport to all African countries and Europe.   
Another area of interest to our clients is OTT. Over-the-top (OTT) services open a new world of opportunities for operators, responding to the demand for differentiation and for extended services beyond their own network boundaries. 

Q. What are your OTT services for the African market?

A. Broadcast operators can add new services and applications through the IP port with no ISP involvement. With OTT, telecom operators and broadcasters in Africa can easily generate extra value for their services and reduce operating costs at the same time.

Satlink has lately succeeded in introducing a range of OTT services boxes that are now deployed throughout the continent. These services are offered to respond to various localized needs.
OTT apps in Africa include direct to mobile device services: feeds on special events, sport, major news such as election in Kenya. We can provide content highlights to any device. We have recently rolled out such services in Mauritius, Kenya and Nigeria. I am currently pushing this service to Francophone countries.

Q. Where are you investing right now in Africa?

A. We are recruiting more sales people to set up local contracts in French-speaking markets.

Q. Apart from competition, what are your challenges in the current African context?

A. We often see two challenges to the expansion of broadcast services to the public: Country regulation and the fact that there are not enough viewers who have the capacity to afford paid audio-visual services.

Q. Which recent trends have you noticed on the African broadcast segment?

A. When it comes to broadcasters in Africa, I believe that there is an increase in advertising on free-to-air operators. I also believe that there will be more DTH platforms available over the next two years, delivering many more TV and radio channels, and that in parallel there will be increased usage in VoD across the continent. Lastly, I have witnessed that Christian TV broadcasters are very dynamic.

Q. Apart from DTT, where is the broadcast potential in the years to come across Africa?

A. Satellite broadcast will remain an essential part of the African audiovisual market. I guess that platform operators will be expanding their outreach and offering additional HD channels from international broadcasters.
In the long run I think that the satellite industry in Africa will combine OTT with current satellite solutions. This innovation will allow broadcasters and content owners to distribute high quality, richer video feeds across the continent.

Q.  In Africa, do you believe that IPTV will pick up at some point?

A. In the short term, there is not enough terrestrial infrastructure on the continent to make terrestrial IPTV worthwhile. So I believe that African operators will skip terrestrial IPTV and go straight to OTT.
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For full details on the short film competition, submission guidelines, and to download an entry form, please see here: