By Laju Arenyeka
Many stakeholders have expressed fears that Nigeria may not meet the June 2015 deadline for countries to switch over to digital broadcasting, as stipulated by the International Telecommunications Union, ITU. This is following challenges which seem to be endless: the deadline is short, and the required funds are large. But one thing on which stakeholders do not differ, is the fact digitization of the broadcast industry is indispensable. This was the motive behind the Broadcast Summit 2014 which held in Lagos recently, where facilitators agreed that the Direct-to-Home, Free-to-Air, DTH-FTA; option is the way to go.
The summit, which was organized by SES, a global satellite operator in conjunction with the Computer Warehouse Group, CWG, also doubled as the launch of new digital television platform, on SES’s ASTRA 2F satellite, at 28.2 degrees—a joint venture of both companies. The CEO of CWG, Mr Austin Okere, told Hi-Tech, that the DTH is the primary way by which Nigeria might be able to meet the 2015 deadline set by the ITU. He said: “The digital migration is a move that the stations will have to do soon. And this platform will make it easier for Nigerian Television stations to switch over and cheaper for subscribers to adapt.”
Mr. James Agada, chief technology officer, CWG Plc, expounding on the platform said: “The brand new digital ‘Direct To Home’ (DTH) free-to-air platform is ultimately designed to help accelerate and alleviate the challenges broadcasters and content owners face in the digital migration process. The platform is packaged as an innovative approach in order to address the challenges of the cost of migration, operation, operational and support challenges, platform agility and flexibility and platform neutrality.”
On this the DTH-FTA platform, the subscriber is required to pay for is the cost of acquiring a decoder and installing a dish to receive broadcast signals. After this, they will have access to all channels available on the platform, without subscription fees. The Chief Executive Officer, CEO, SES Platform Services, Mr. Wilfried Urner said that the platform would increase viewership, hence advertising and in the long run the economy as a whole. He said: The more channels you have, the more people are watching, the more receivers are sold, the more advertisers are paying, and the more the economy is improved. We are hoping to launch fully early in September attracting both international and local channels. With this platform, Nigerians have the wider choice of free to air channels. The free to air situation we see in Europe is driving the sector. We you have a wider technical reach, you can build up additional business models like HD. If you look at Germany, on top of SD being free to air, we’re offering premium quality HD, consumers are paying a minimal yearly fee, and are getting fantastic quality up to 12 mps.”
Vice President, Business Development at SES, Mr. Jean-Pierre Kabanda, also backed up Urner’s position that the venture would not just boost the economy in the long run, but make life easier for the average Nigerian consumer. He said: “To receive a large number of Nigerian channels as well as international ones, you need to have multiple decoders. We want the end user to receive most of their content through one platform; one antenna, one decoder. This will drastically reduce cost for the broadcasters and the end user. What we would like to offer to the broadcaster is the ability to succeed further. Today, the market is too fragmented,, and as a result, their reach is very minimal. And if you look at the advertising sector in Nigeria, it is 300mn USD which could be better. We believe that the Nigerian advertising sector can flourish if there is a wider reach, if the advertisers can realize that channels are being received properly across the country, and then they can spend money advertising with broadcasters.”