The 5th Digital Dialogue Conference, facilitated by MultiChoice Africa, points the way for Africa’s pay-television industry.
The future of the pay-television industry in Africa was, again, the focus at the 5th Digital Dialogue Conference, which held in Dubai between 2 and 5 May. The conference, organized by MultiChoice Africa, debuted in 2012 as a thought leadership platform for better understanding of the future of the continent’s pay-television industry.
Attendees comprised of industry thought leaders and leading minds in the African media industry.
Speaking at the conference, David Abraham, former Chief Executive of UK’s Channel 4, said the future of pay-television is more fragmented and messy.
“The old walls of traditional pay-TV are now tumbling down and what’s coming next is infinitely more fragmented, and messy,” said Abraham
According to him, the economic pay-television model used to be about a battle between free-TV and service providers’ creating pay-television walls and maintaining exclusivity over key content in order to promote monthly subscriptions and minimize loss of customers.
This, he explained, now faces threat because of broadband as additional service and mobile phone technology. Abraham said the advent of telecommunication service providers, who are producing content, has raised the question of whether consumers will be able to shuttle among so many different providers to find the best content.
While stating that the future is uncertain, Abraham said: “The African continent, with its younger populations and progressive use of mobile, can both build on and leapfrog Western markets in terms of future models of content creation and distribution.”
Another speaker, Paul Papadimitriou told the conference that pay-television need to understand their consumer better as a means to determining what they watch, where they watch and for how long they watch.
Papadimitriou, a futurist and innovation expert, said: “As such the current challenge for pay-TV companies is to shift the focus from content delivery systems to understanding its consumers through primary data – for instance when they watch, how long and how much.”
He noted that the way consumers watch television has greatly evolved, adding that it is critical for companies to understand the new consumption habits and mindsets of consumers.
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“The new consumer is nomadic – they can be everywhere and anywhere, tribal – gathering around similarities, and singular – entrepreneurial and being who they want to be. The best innovators are like the best travelers – they’re not afraid of unknown territories. They understand who people are and the journeys they’re on. They just do it,” he said.
MultiChoice’s entertainment boss Yolisa Phahle advised the African television industry to step up its approach to engaging with viewers, who now have more free content choices available than ever before.
She explained that there is a need to amplify African stories with digital technology.
“Today in the midst of the digital revolution, collectively, we have the opportunity to not only tell stories that educate and inform African audiences, but the digital age means we are in a position to take African stories to the world and create a global market for what we do.
“By using the internet and leveraging technology, we have the ability to reach audiences at a global level and the success of companies like Iroko TV, artists like Davido, actresses like Lupita N’yongo and the movie Black Panther are confirmation that the world is ready to consume African stories, celebrate African culture and embrace African languages,” she said.
Phahle believes that the producers of content that resonates will survive.
“What we do know however is that people today consume more news and entertainment than ever and I believe this trend will continue. The delivery mechanisms will change, and in many ways, digital is just another route to market, but the producers of the most relevant and resonant content will survive,” she said.
Nigerian film producer, Femi Odugbemi, said Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, will grow bigger if it takes proper advantage of digital changes.
“Digital solutions will open up a number of possibilities across Nollywood’s sub-sectors, including distribution, production, manpower, and governance.”
“If there has ever been an industry that created digital dialogue from the word go, it would be Nollywood,” he said.
He added that filmmaking in Nigeria is becoming more sophisticated because of the growing options of digital filmmaking such as virtual scene creation.
For Anthony Lilley, a professor of Creative Industries at Ulster University in Northern Ireland, television companies will have to work harder at capturing and retaining the attention of viewers in view of the volume of information competing for attention.
“How do you grab attention, create meaning, and tell stories? How do we engage with people’s passions and what does it all mean for our culture? The answers to these questions can be answered by three major factors affecting content businesses of today: video-on-demand (VOD), personal-mobile and that we are inundated with data and intelligence which can do new things,” he said.
He noted that those who can capture people’s attention can sell it to someone else, adding that it is the way television companies sell advertisement space – “because there’s a captive audience that is paying attention.”
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