Switched on: Africa's broadcasting revolution.

Author:Thomas, David
Position:Broadcast media

Africa's rapidly growing population offers an attractive market for broadcasters and advertisers, but the growth of mobile technology, the slow switch from analogue to digital and muted economic growth all pose challenges for the industry

In a homely, brightly lit Nigerian studio of the sort familiar to daytime TV viewers the world over, enthusiastic, coffee-clutching TV presenters usher the audience through cookery classes, weather updates and brief celebrity interviews.

"There are three things you should do every morning," says a beaming, smartly dressed host. "One, get out of bed. Two, turn on your television. And three, watch Wake Up Nigeria!"

Some 1.3m viewers a day take his advice, tuning in to a slickly produced three-hour show that replicates the morning format first pioneered by the NBC's Today Show in the 1950s. It may not be revolutionary entertainment, but a rigid focus on professional production values, international-level picture quality and engaging local content is helping to move Nigerian TV away from low-budget beginnings, drawing in mass audiences and attracting advertisers keen to reach them.

"[Audiences love] homegrown, home-produced content telling stories about themselves--it's the same the world over. There's no great science to it--give them what they want, do it well and you can succeed," says Andrew Hanlon, the Irish chief executive of TV and radio station owner TVC Communications, which broadcasts Wake Up Nigeria.

With a population set to double to 2.5bn over the next 30 years, Africa offers a vast and growing youth demographic for broadcasters and content producers, and an irresistible market for advertisers who wish to target audiences with homegrown and international products, brands and services.

Growing markets

In Nigeria, where the population has grown from 95m in 1990 to 201m today, the TV market grew 17.1% year-on-year in 2017 to $800m, and is expected to expand to $l.2bn in 2022, according to PwC. The market in Kenya is predicted to rise by 6.1% a year to $38501 in 2022, while Tanzania is expected to grow to $18301 in 2022 from just $5601 in 2013. Even South Africa, already the continent's most developed broadcasting market, is expected to see the TV market increase to R40.8bn ($2.8bn) in 2022 from R32.2bn today, according to the survey. As economic growth leads to increased smartphone ownership and internet penetration ticks up, broadcasters are increasingly reaching new audiences via online distribution platforms such as YouTube.

"Mobile technology is growing rapidly, data is being consumed at a very high level and DTT [digital terrestrial television] is being launched in phases," says John Momoh, chief executive of Nigerian news and entertainment broadcaster Channels TV. "We're all experiencing disruption and trying to adjust to see how we can move content to the consumer to satisfy their demands."

Yet the industry faces significant hurdles if it is to thrive amid the disruption. The switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting has been delayed in many countries, slowing advertising, product and audience growth. Low internet penetration rates, limited wifi and the high cost of data hold back the potential of online broadcasting. And muted economic growth in major markets has resulted in broadcasters chasing limited revenue in a...

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