The year 2017 will be TV content watershed – Francis Doku

Entertainment of Friday, 6 January 2017



Happy Nana Addo Akufo AddoPresident-elect, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

Come this Saturday, President John Dramani Mahama will exit the presidency and his place will be taken by the man who Ghanaians overwhelmingly elected to be the president for the next four years Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Over the past eight years Mr. Mahama has always been in the news and in the limelight first as Vice President and then as President when his predecessor President John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills unfortunately kicked the bucket on July 24, 2012.

There would be so much euphoria on Saturday around the State House, Parliament, the Independence Square and pretty much everywhere around the country as there always is when a new president is being sworn in.

I recall in 2000 when President John Agyekum Kufour was sworn and the mood of the nation at the time. I was at the State House and then the Independence Square to see for myself how things would be and as they say in Akan, it deserves to be seen and not to be told. It was same during the induction of President Mills as well.

In 2017 the media is bigger in size and numbers and I foresee a greater involvement to cover the ceremonies by the media just as it happened during the elections a month ago. Radio and TV will be inundated with news and information about the swearing-in at the forecourt of parliament, the fun fare at Independence Square, dinner at the State House and special session or whatever State Protocol calls it at the Flagstaff (or Jubilee) House.

There will be time for the business of governance and to execute all the promises made during the campaign season, but this Saturday our radio and television will bring us up to speed on how the euphoria will be all over the country.

Let’s move on to the main issue for today, which is how I foresee the content space to go this year. I have been talking about how content has been very much available on most channels in 2016. I referenced the fact that the digital migration had created an opportunity for access to a lot of content.

The plethora of stations operating on the digital platform has given an opportunity to the viewer to have choices in what content they consume. It has also given room for a lot of piracy as some of the stations show content, especially foreign content, they are not authorised to show.

From music videos, live events, films, series and sports we have seen content being aired that has brought out the question of whether the station had the authorisation. For example, during the last European Championships one TV station was showing the matches without authorisation and upon the advice of Multichoice Ghana they were forced to stop.

Despite this, the digital channels as well as those free to air channels have given an opportunity for local content creators and production houses to develop content relevant to the market and to have them aired on these stations or partner with the stations to produce, air and share revenue.

It is a long shot, but this creates an opportunity for us to jettison that archaic standard of charging content creators and production houses to use their content on the channels instead of the other way round. It is my hope that the plethora of stations would necessitate a competition in the area of content that would bring about this change.

Another area where the fight in television would take place is the pay TV platforms. Last year we had Netflix, the online streaming service open itself for all markets, including Ghana. The vibe was that this would kill other subscription-based services like DStv. That did not happen as DStv struggled but the Netflix effect did not hit them adversely.

There was another attempt by another streaming service Iflix launch in the market, but that was pushed till the first quarter of this year. Iflix is a Malaysian service that is setting foot on Africa and want to have African content play a significant role in the content they offer, much unlike Netflix.

Another aspect of the Iflix offering is how they want to play in the mobile space so people can watch on the go. If all goes well as they have planned for it to and Iflix launches this quarter, the only difficulty and perhaps barrier would be the cost of data. Though the fact that they are considering allowing payment to be done with the local payment platforms such as Mobile Money is likely to aid their sign ups. As to whether they will do better than Netflix has done since coming to Africa will be known in due course.

If there is any particular service that has given DStv some considerable challenge, it must be StarTime which launched late last year. Hopefully they will do more in their area of marketing and branding to improve on their performance through consumer interaction and engagement, something DStv has mastered the art of doing.

Despite their initial effort to be relevant and also the fact that they gained some awareness in the process, StarTimes has a hurdle to clear in Go TV, which Multichoice has used adroitly to fend of competition for its premium service – DStv. You have to clear Go TV first before we begin to talk kind of strategy.

Besides StarTimes there is also talk about another service about to launch in the name of Kwese TV and they will also sell digi boxes and operate multiple channels with varied content across the different channels. Thus, they are entering the market via Viasat1 with a free to air and a multiple channel paid service. We might see more of such multiple-channeled television services setting camp before the year ends.

What really matters in 2017 will be content. Content is what has sustained DStv for so long a time although in our market their subscription price point is extremely high, compared to other markets. Football, Big Brother, blockbuster movies, live events, reality shows among other content is why people still spend top dollars to subscribe.

Thus for the other platforms to be competitive there is the need for them to have compelling content otherwise it would be exercise in futility. The Ghanaian viewer is getting spoiled for choice in an era of many channels and several content available to choose from.

The stations better up their game or they will be forced to shut down. No year has brought us such huge opportunities in the area of television content as I see 2017 to do. It is, I predict, a watershed year as far as content is concerned.