AfricaCast 2013: The truth that dare not speak its name – Africa’s telco operators may not be ready to launch VoD services

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In the last issue we highlighted the rumours circulating about the launch of VoD services by two large operators. In the event, both continue to move forward but neither was ready for a public launch. Sylvain Beletre looks at a major operator already doing VoD below the radar and asks: Are African telcos ready to launch VoD in the short term?

Delegates to AfricaCast 2013 last were treated to a demonstration of a mobile content service. Those involved should have heeded the old saying among broadcasters: never work with children, animals or technology. The demonstration ran over a 3G network of a South African operator.

The tests which were made before the session ran perfectly but when the moment arrived, the images streamed were of such poor quality that someone in the audience described it as a radio programme.

The impact of the VoD uptake on local African telecoms operators is clear: in the years to come they will need to re-engineer their data models and invest in infrastructure to get a share of the free and paid VoD segment. The obvious path for them is to partner with exisiting VoD platforms and with local and international content providers.

But don’t be fooled! Although YouTube is doing very well across the continent (see video clip interview links at the bottom of this story), mass VoD usage will not happen quickly. African telecoms operators are not in a rush to launch VoD for a simple technical reason: the bandwidth available on their network is still too limited in most places. But Afican VoD has been launched online (mostly through free access with YouTube and iROKO), and usage grows up very very fast.

But in African urban areas, especially where broadband internet price wars are taking place between telcos, VoD and free or premium music streaming will be a major incentive for consumers to buy expensive DSL or 3/4G-LTE packages. Video streaming or downloads for film and TV programmes requires much more bandwidth and in most places, neither the pricing nor the networks are ready yet.

In the meantime, building on its VoD experience in developed markets, Orange has discreetly led the way in the VoD space among African telcos. This is part of Orange’s long term strategy plan and brand visibility. Other African-located telcos have VoD up their sleeves. Take a look at our report on VoD platforms in Africa to see what’s happening.

On the technology front Orange supplies VoD solutions over Mobile TV, IPTV and the Internet.  It is paying special attention to local content appealing to local audiences, particularly in French and Arabic. Orange’s reach with VoD right now spreads across mainly Francophone countries: Mauritius, Senegal, Tunisia. It also launched in Egypt. The service is offered on the following platforms:

1) VoD over mobile

Two of Orange operations offer Mobile TV over 3G: Orange Tunisia provides a Free Mobile TV including a paid VoD service with local content; Orange Senegal has a mobile TV bundle including paid VoD service with local content.
2) VoD over IPTV

VoD services as a part of Orange TV offer includes live TV and VoD bundled with a broadband internet subscription
Orange Senegal
-          VoD on TV screen only
-          subscribers need equipment (Livebox2 and TV decoder) to access the VoD service
-          Local content (with over 350 video programmes)
-          Agreement with Canal only for live TV
o    Orange Mauritius
-          IPTV solution with a multi-screen extension
-          subscribers need a TV decoder to access the VoD service. They can opt for a Livebox2.
-          700 video programmes, about 20% of the programmes are Mauritian.
3) VoD over the Internet
o    Orange Mauritus
-          Free VoD service accessible from (“video channel offer”)
-          Web only
-          Content provided by Dailymotion
o    Orange Senegal
-          Using OpenVoD solution provided by Dailymotion
-          Web only
-          Paid VoD service launched in Q3 2013 targeting the diaspora
-          Local content
o    Mobinil – LINKdotNET (Mibonil ISP)
-          Paid VoD service for LinkDotnet ADSL subscribers
-          Web only
-          Arabic content: Shofha catalogue (exclusive content rights) and content provided by Rotana*.

According to a new research by broadband network solutions firm Sandvine,
video traffic on mobile networks in Africa is to grow “faster than in any other region before it,” despite only currently accounting for less than 6% of traffic. “The African market is especially unique, as most users are connecting to the internet for the first time through mobile devices…we predict Africa will be the fastest video adopter and operators will respond with creative device-and application-based service tiers.”

If you are still not convinced, this newsletter issue provides plenty of clues for VoD uptake across Africa in the years to come.

*Note: Rotana Media Group is a regional media powerhouse: it developed a range of landmark media offerings across a spectrum of disciplines including Broadcast, Film, Music, Digital and Media Services. Designed exclusively to meet the technological needs of the entertainment industry, its contemporary Saudi Arabia headquarters are the central point of this global business, delivered through five regional offices located in Jeddah, Kuwait, Dubai, Beirut and Cairo.


Everything You Wanted To Know About You Tube In Africa But Were Afraid To Ask
Brett St Clair, Google on what You Tube is doing in Africa and what content is successful
Brett St Clair, Google on what kind of revenues film-makers and broadcasters can get from You Tube

A video briefing on mobile music and film platforms in Africa
Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a Pan-African film and music mobile platform
Ghana's Juliet Asante on launching a new mobile content platform Mobilefliks
Tim Rimbui, Innovative Music on the launch of online music platform

The First Global Online Premiere of an African Film – the shape of the future?

Obi Emelonye on the online global premiere of his latest film Onye Ozi (The Messenger)

New Films from the African Film Festival of Cordoba
Arya Lalloo on the documentary Jeppe On A Friday - Day in the life of a South African neighbourhood
Haminiaina Ratovoarivony on his first movie Legends of Madagascar, a road movie about Madagascar

New South African Film and TV at MIPCOM

Marc Schwinges on Leli Maki's film Impepho about a South African women's journey to being a sangoma
South African Brian Mitchell Jnr on the film about his boxer father & the only man who beat him