• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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BusinessDay

Distributing content

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 Despite Nigeria’s under-utilised bandwidth, companies – Dstv, MTN, Nigerian Breweries, Microsoft, Samsung, Spinlet, Iroko Partners, etc – are generating content and adopting multi-screen channels to distribute it.

Smartphones are increasingly the device of choice: internet-ready mobile phones set to surpass personal computers in the world in 2013. Whether they run on Android or Windows, device makers and technology companies are partnering to provide cheap smartphones for Africa preloaded with local apps suited to local tastes. For instance, Kenyans want mobile banking apps while Nigerians want entertainment.

Though television is still the major distribution channel, the ubiquitous mobile phone is a default channel for these new over-the-top television (OTT) services. They are offering subscribers video and audio content via mobile devices. The future of Africa, current and potential content providers is mobile.

However, broadband speed and efficiency matter. Abuja metro fibre, launched lately by Etisalat, plans that “existing customers and potential ones will be able to do more High Definition Streaming video and audio, faster file downloads of any size, a vastly improved Blackberry service and an enhanced experience on any data capable device”. For efficient delivery, Content Distribution Network (CDN) is critical. A multichannel distributor needs a network of servers capable of delivering content to subscribers efficiently.

For content providers, and Nollywood, digital TV is a low entry barrier to business. But intense competition is expected. Will it be a TV streaming battle in Nigeria among Iroko Partners, Google and MTN-Afrinolly? Will service providers adopt a Netflix business model to offer “all-you-can-eat television”?

Netflix, a US-based company, used to lend DVDs through the mailbox. Now, it has moved into offering subscribers video-on-demand for $7.99 a month (N1,254). These TV shows and movies can be viewed on several mobile devices and on television. Netflix’s subscription fee is estimated to be what, on the average, African consumers spend on mobile phones.

A fledgling technology industry, in addition to opening new technology trails from Nairobi to Lagos, can play catch-up by looking at what others have done and copy better. Jim O’Neill, outgoing chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, says the entry of fast-growing emerging economies into the global market will be an “impetus as past true productivity-enhancing technologies did within the West”.

Also, adds O’Neill, “most truly productivity-enhancing technologies aren’t easy to predict in advance!” In other words, despite what The Economist calls “Innovation Pessimism”, immensely successful growth-enhancing financial innovations like M-Pesa in Kenya can emerge.

In Nigeria, tech-entrepreneurs must look beyond entertainment. Individuals and businesses, as Google and Microsoft race to get Nigerian businesses online, will require productivity solutions. There are gains to be made from deployment of fibre backbone (hopefully spurred by a broadband policy).