Editorial: Television Industry Africa’s Next Economic, Investment Jackpot

Written by Kimberly Jacobs

Before the end of 2013 there was a lot of worldwide entertainment buzz about a TV show pilot, Usoni, that was screened November 27 and created for Kenyan television. The sci-fi show takes place in 2062 and was created by Dr. Marc Rigaudis, produced by Denver Ochieng and directed by Cherie Lindiwe of the United States International University.

Unique Genres Paving the Way For Television Breakthroughs? 

Usoni is making its mark not only because of its originality but also its genre, sci-fi. It’s a unique show for a country like Kenya and may be just what is needed to take Kenya’s television industry to the next economic level — if it’s successful in becoming more than a pilot and viewed in several other countries.

In many African countries such as Kenya, entertainment is said to be dominated by the U.S., with some British and French exceptions.

Now, all around Africa, the television industry is making strides to garner power in the entertainment business. Media executives and CEOs from around the world are coming together in Africa to meet and discuss current changes, as well as future adjustments that need to take place to welcome the emergence of broadcast through technology platforms.

At the 2013 AfricaCast Conference in Cape Town — a forum for innovation and progress in broadcast, cable and OTT (over-the-top content) —  Verimatrix, a company that works to enhance revenue for global multi-network, multi-screen digital TV services hosted forums and sessions.

The Last Global Market to Latch Onto the Television Industry

“Africa is seen by many in the TV industry as last significant global market for the development of new digital platforms and associated information and entertainment services,” Verimatrix’s VP of marketing Steve Christian said in a IP&TV News interview.

“Individual African national markets are opening up and their economies are growing at a much faster rate than other more developed parts of the world – albeit from a lower baseline,” he said.

In Kenya alone, television is the second largest form of media next to radio according to an African Media Initiative report. It also noted that in 2009, the privately owned network, CitizenTV, made up 40 percent of market viewers.  NTV and KBC TV trailed behind, both with 20 percent each.

Last month, All Africa reported that 10 countries have already launched Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). The broadcast upgrade improves the quality of TV reception — including  in HD — while expanding channel lists and making way for streaming services and video-on-demand (VOD) multimedia applications.

Market Expansion Through Analog to Digital Switch

The growing market starts with having the technological platform for shows to be aired on. It’s also important for a continent with many rural areas to be able to reach viewers all over. Google and Microsoft are working with Kenya and South Africa’s communication authorities to pilot white space TV technology for rural areas. Instead of electricity, rural area residents will be able to connect to internet using solar power. Strides like these exhibit why Africa is well on its way to being economically successful in the TV and film industry.

Areas of the continent have already moved from analogue to digital technologies, which opens up networks to internet and airing more shows. This will allow for a boom in Kenya’s original TV shows. The more content being produced makes way for a larger variety for viewers ranging from dramas to comedies, and now sci-fi.

“The transition from analogue to digital will lead to the creation of many new television channels, all of which will need fresh content,” Marie Lora-Mungai, CEO of digital broadcast firm Buni media, said in a recent Africa Cast interview.

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