London — Kwese's withdrawal from the Sub-Saharan African pay TV market late last year was one of a long string of failures in this sector. Content distributor and linear channel creator AfricaXP has been riding the ups and downs of supplying pay TV operators and decided to create its own free-to-air platform. Russell Southwood talked to AfricaXP founder and CEO about its new platform Premium.free.
Distributor AfricaXP launched its first linear channels in 2013 and pioneered the idea of selling low-cost channels that would enable new operators to get a foothold in the market. It offered tech-convenient services like remote and cloud play-out along with a non-exclusive multi-platform, multi-territory commercial model for both pay TV and OTT operators.
As we talk about the market, Craig Kelly takes me through the failures and market stresses that the pay TV market is going through. At the level of the "big players", DStv has been performing less well, was up for sale at one point and is now being spun out of Naspers because its returns are too low. Wananchi-owned Zuku has also been up for sale and is not making waves in terms of market share. Kwese TV went all-in to become a pay TV player but pulled when it failed to get the volume of subscribers needed.
The survivors have been StarTimes, sub-regional East African player Azam TV, Openview HD and Kenya's Bamba Digital Television. The players no longer in the market include: GTV, Trend TV, Consat, TOP TV, actv, MyTV and Smart TV. Alongside this pay TV market, the new revenues are equally uncertain. Kwese TV took over iflix Africa after it failed to get sufficient traction. BuniTV was bought out by Trace. PCCW's OnTap.com has closed.
As Kelly observed:" The existing model focused on selling content to unstable broadcasters has not yielded sustainable growth for 20 years and cannot be considered a sensible 'business development' strategy'. Content owners need to identify other revenue sources."
As a result, AfricaXP began to focus on the idea of an ad-supported TV platform. International advertising agencies have long looked for a way of focusing cost-effectively on different parts of the continent for their brands:" The market aspires to having access to a multichannel "Pay TV like" entertainment experience but largely cannot afford Pay TV so the market is ripe for a quality FTA DTH bouquet."
Building free-to-air audiences will come from three different directions: through a satellite platform, supply non-exclusively to third party platforms (DTT, Pay, Local FTAs as low cost as possible to ensure carriage) and to create a free, ad-supported MNO platform. To glue all this together, AfricaXP is working with a specialist ad sales agency and in the future, will conduct audience research to demonstrate its proposition.
Adnet Media is the newly formed Advertising Media Sales House, representing media opportunities across platforms, across Africa. Its first two media platforms are AfricaXP's Premium.Free a DTH FTA TV bouquet in West Africa and Taxi Times, distributed fortnightly at taxi ranks across South Africa. It is headed up by Dave Kelly and Debbie Brady, both of whom have considerable experience in ad sales.
The biggest part of AfricaXP's strategy is Premium.Free, a new 13 channel TV bouquet transmitted on the SES West Africa Astra 2G KU-Band beam at 28.2°E This satellite beam reaches well in excess of 9 million TV households in West Africa. The bouquet has four channels of completely African content: True African (Movies, Series, Lifestyle - 65% West African), Afriwood (frican Soaps and Drama Series - 65% West African), Pulse P (Local, African and International Music, Interactive, Gossip and Youth Lifestyle) and Cinema Hausa (Hausa movies and Series)
There are 6 international channels with 20% localized content including: Life TV, fresh, Gospellife, Kiddiwinks. LOL Africa and Sports Connect. Finally there are three international channels: Fight Night, Romanza Africa (telenovelas) and Limelight (international movies and series).