Entertainment is a powerful form of escapism. To many, it is the medium of choice to unwind after the day’s activities. Some view it as a means to forget, albeit temporarily, the undesirable realities of life; while others wield it as a tool to influence and control the narrative.
I still remember those days in the late 80s when Nollywood made films into cassette tapes and/or VHS. Back then, I also remember that video clubs were the places to be if you had a hunger for new movie releases. Funnily, as with other popular trends, cassettes and videotapes transitioned into digital versatile discs (DVDs) by 2008, and yet more changes were still underway.
Despite the proliferation of CDs and DVDs at the time, the emergence of satellite TV compelled a number of Nigerians to seek entertainment from such services. Today, these services and the like are given a run for their money with the advent of online entertainment. By briefly tracing the evolution of entertainment content format in Nigeria, I have simply demonstrated how technology provides user control as well as a wide array of choices customers may pick from. With that backdrop, let’s take a dive into the media industry to see how innovation and disruption are currently revamping the space.
In recent times, there’s been a paradigm shift such that streaming media has become the rage. Advances in technology have made it practical, affordable not to mention diverse for different users across the globe.
Significantly, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the workings of the media industry. For one, it expedited current changes in consumers’ behaviour, fast-tracked digital disruption, and pushed boundaries that the media industry wouldn’t have reached for many years.
Secondly, theatres have been adversely affected by the stay-at-home rules. Studios have also borne the brunt of the pandemic as some productions were halted mid-way, leaving film-makers no option but to postpone anticipated releases.
Interestingly, though, PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020–2024 report asserts that digitalisation, one of the major drivers of all industries, has been augmented by social distancing and restrictions. As a result, the entertainment and media (E&M) space in 2020 has not only become more remote, but more virtual, more streamed, highly personalized, and more home-centric than could have been imagined.
However, for one of the most profitable business models- satellite-based pay TV- the tide seems to be changing seeing how more of their audiences have espoused paid subscriptions to streaming video services.
As a result, there’s a need for companies who desire to thrive in the marketplace to attract and leverage the economic, social, and emotional power of fans.
How is the African entertainment and media industry faring during this period of digital disruption? The 10th edition of the Entertainment & Media Outlook: 2019-2023 An African perspective by PwC projects that with the profound shifts taking place, there will be a global growth in entertainment and media (E&M) revenues. For example, in South Africa, the total E&M revenue is expected to reach R170.5 billion by 2023- an increase from R128.9 billion in 2018.
With the present internet penetration in Nigeria, E&M revenue is expected to increase at a 19.3% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to reach US$10.8 billion in 2023 from US$4.5 billion in 2018. Nigeria’s E&M revenue is dominated by internet access in 2018, and the figure is predicted to grow to 81% in five years’ time. As much as the internet controls much of the revenue, there is still room for improvement.
Video streaming in Africa- What about it?
Interestingly, the video on demand (VOD) industry is booming as more and more people want to watch their online videos at a place and time of their own choosing. As of 2019, Conviva, a real-time platform for optimized streaming media, reported that video viewing on VOD platforms has gone up to 155% year-over-year, with an average viewing time of 17.1 minutes per session.
Unsurprisingly, businesses are beginning to catch up with this trend. In addition, Digital TV Research puts the total number of video streaming users to 3.9 million. This means that just about 0.3% of Africans make use of one video streaming platform at the minimum.
In fact, these days, an average Nigerian would rather indulge in VODs than having to sit before a television since the erratic state of electricity is a deal-breaker for most.
Streaming services like Netflix (with 2 million subscribers in Africa), Showmax (with 688,000 direct subscribers), YouTube, Apple TV+, iROKOtv, EbonyLive TV, and Amazon Prime Video among others offer unlimited television shows and movies that subscribers can binge-watch.
While streaming online entertainment is a concept that has come to stay, it is not entirely without its challenges, especially in the African space. One major problem is the high cost of subscription fees. To put this into perspective, it is not news that Africa is home to twenty-seven of the 28 poorest countries in the world and besides, entertainment isn’t exactly on the same level with basic needs for survival.
If the internet enables video streaming, can we then say that it is readily accessible and affordable for an average African? The answer to that is an unequivocal no! Not only does the continent have one of the most expensive internet prices in the world, but there are also still areas that experience poor internet connectivity. Also, the fickle nature of consumers cannot be discounted as some subscribers have been known to cancel their paid streaming services for reasons best known to them.
In spite of the above-mentioned challenges, the shift to streaming and direct-to-consumer distribution can unleash new kinds of value as opposed to what obtained in the past. Hence, the onus is on service providers to build, innovate and reposition Africa’s video streaming landscape. Who says they can compete favourably with international streaming platforms.
ICT Clinic by CFA is published weekly in the Sunday Punch