London — Recent changes in the African broadcast industry have had one common thread: the word online always comes up now almost every time you talk about them. Before Covid-19, some broadcasters were much more reticent about the idea. Russell Southwood sticks his finger in the broadcasting online pool to see how deep it is.
This article looks at three different versions of online presence for African broadcasters: Android App downloads, YouTube subscribers and Facebook Followers. For most African countries, Android handsets predominate in the market but there are exceptions. I've chosen YouTube subscribers rather than views because it implies a slightly higher level of commitment. And finally, despite having several recent competitors, Facebook remains the most used social media platform across Africa.
The figures presented below have something that has to be read rather carefully. They represent both in-country users and diaspora users. On the basis of talking to African broadcasters over the last 12 months, the stronger digital countries like Ghana and South Africa now have a majority of in-country users and the less strong still have a majority of diaspora users.
However, a strong diaspora audience can be a great strength in revenue-generating terms. If you have over a million users in the diaspora, then you will be getting a significant income stream. Below one million and it will be a small but maybe useful additional income stream.
The tables below do not show all the same broadcasters. Some broadcasters (for example RTI in Cote d'Ivoire) have amazingly good numbers on YouTube but almost no presence through downloaded Android Apps. Indeed the most striking thing across all three tables is that most broadcasters do not have the same "order of magnitude" presence on different platforms: the two exceptions are Channels TV and Citizen TV.
The Android App downloads numbers below are frustrating. They come in scale bands rather than the exact numbers in the other two tables. Also all the research from more mature markets and emerging markets in Latin America seems to indicate that a relatively small proportion of those who download become regular users.
Not surprisingly in the current crisis, news channels (like Channels TV and Citizen News) have in the main been the winners: users want to be able to have on the move access to breaking news about the virus. An interesting thing to note is that the crisis has laid greater emphasis on sourcing news stories through social media. In this vein, Citizen TV has created a citizen-reporting app which has a significant number of downloads.
Table 1: Android App Downloads
Channels TV Mobile for Androids (Nigeria) 1,000,000+
Citizen News (Kenya) 1,000,000+
AIT (Nigeria) 500,000+
TBC Live (Tanzania) 500,000+
Citizen Radio (Kenya) 100,000+
Clouds TV (Tanzania) 100,000+
2STV (Senegal) 100,000+
SABC News (South Africa) 50,000+
Multi TV (Ghana) 50,000+
UTV (Ghana) 50,000+
TV Zimbo (Angola) 50,000+
RTI (Cote d'Ivoire) 10,000+
Walfadjri L'Officiel (Senegal) - Both radio and TV 10,000+
Citizen Reporter (Kenya) 1,000+
The thing about YouTube as a platform is that it can be used to generate revenues and through attracting subscribers build loyalty to the channel. As a platform brand with its own high profile and local or regional African caches to improve speed of delivery, it can be used to create larger numbers than the App downloads.
Furthermore, the subscriber numbers here are backed up with engagement levels through numbers of view. Even though it is a "free access" platform, the key obstacle still remains the cost of data in most countries, for example in Angola.
Cote d'Ivoire's RTI demonstrates what can be done on the platform in a country with a relatively small population. It definitely punches above its weight compared to say Ghana but current channel competition in Cote d'Ivoire is much lower.
Table 2: YouTube Channel Subscribers
Citizen TV (Kenya) 2,020,000
KTN News (Kenya) 1,410,000
RTI Officiel (Cote d'Ivoire) 1,300,000
Channels TV (Nigeria) 1,120,000
Azam TV (Tanzania) 1,000,000
SABC News (South Africa) 963,000
2STV (Senegal) 930,000
Clouds Media (Tanzania) 767,000
eNCA (South Africa) 680,000
Adom TV (Ghana) 397,000
TVC News (Nigeria) 311,000
RTS1 (Senegal) 172,000
Zap a minha TV 84,300
Net2TV (Ghana) 12,900
Facebook is a delivery mechanism for broadcasters that can also be used to create a buzz and communicate directly with users. In a way it is probably the widest ring of audience. For example, Citizen TV has twice as many Facebook followers as it does YouTube subscribers.
Judging by the average hours of engagement on Facebook in some of the countries covered, it is arguably almost as present in people's lives as TV. Again for younger users, Facebook is also often both a source for news and watched for breaking news during events like the current Covid-19 crisis.
Table 3: Facebook Followers
Citizen TV (Kenya) 4,599,556
eNCA (South Africa) 1,877,287
Channels TV (Nigeria) 1,811,447
SABC News (South Africa) 1,314,636
RTI Officiel (Cote d'Ivoire) 1,146,781
Azam TV (Tanzania) 845,019
Adom TV (Ghana) 802,102
KTN News (Kenya) 592,919
TV Zimbo (Angola) 330,910
RTS1 (Senegal) 305,810
2STV L'Officiel (Senegal) 301,012
UTV News (Ghana) 204,684
TVC News (Nigeria) 68,068
Clouds TV (Tanzania) 8,350
The strength of both African TV and radio as "old media" was that they had established viewing patterns and for the bigger channels, large numbers of "sit back" viewers. The Covid-19 crisis seems to have accelerated online engagement with TV channels in particular. If you're an African broadcaster and your digital strategy is to say "we're on social media", you need to think again. The drive for digital channel revenues is going to be your next challenge.