What on-demand TV needs to work in emerging markets

Tablets and TV

Tablets and TV

Of the hundreds of channels from your cable or satellite provider, how many do you actually watch?

I watch 21. On an exam, that would be a definitive fail. Variety is used to mask overpricing, and we the consumers are none the wiser.

In a world where most things are DIY, why is it that television is stuck in the past? It’s the equivalent of being sold an expensive bag of stones and told there is a piece of silver somewhere in there. Why can’t you just get the silver?

What’s on demand TV?

On demand TV allows pay TV packages to be tailored for subscribers. Operators create flexible bouquets where viewers can form their own packages or the most optimal, viewers get to choose their channels and programmes one by one — think grocery shopping list.

Emerging markets — the status quo

Pay television is on the rise in South Africa and many other emerging markets with India, China, Brazil and Mexico at the forefront of this growth. We are in the midst of tough economic times, which are undoubtedly more challenging for cash strapped nations. Low incomes make high prices for pay TV unaffordable for most in developing markets. According to PR News Wire, by 2014, 84% of all pay TV network additions will come from emerging markets. However a successful pay TV service in these markets will depend on their business models, adoption and service provider strategies. The world is moving towards an internet based approach to on demand TV, giving the power of choice back to the consumer. Viva!

On demand, in the cloud

Apple is advocating for on demand television through Apple TV, wherein programming would exist in a cloud and viewers can access any programme any time. The sweet spot for social TV lies in partnerships between the hardware (television set or viewing device providers) and the developers (streaming content makers). Apple’s advantage is that it plays strongly in both of these areas, and this is why it would likely outperform competitors such as the newly launched Fan TV device.

Although not yet available in Africa, Netflix is the largest online cable company in the world. It has nearly 30-million subscribers — and have brought in around US$1-billion in revenue, just in the first three months of 2013.

But can it work?

For an emerging market perspective, mass usage of on demand streaming media is still a way off thanks to broadband complexities (we’ve all fallen victim to the video that buffers for longer than the actual video even is).

For on demand TV to work in emerging markets, it will need to answer three things: affordability, accessibility and quality. There should be a low barrier to entry to make on demand streaming media lucrative for consumers, and the accessibility question should be answered first. The progression of offshore cable projects and others like it will likely answer both the accessibility and affordability questions.

Netflix works because it is able to provide exclusive content and have positioned themselves as an online, on demand cable company. The opportunity for streaming media in emerging markets is in creating their own relevant but high quality content and platforms.

The opportunities for great content through on demand TV are endless. Viewers could find the manufacturer of items they see on a show or movie just by hovering above them. They could interact about the show with others via instant messaging and social media, consumers could get content friends have recommended for them, much like YouTube does and much more. Emerging market streaming media platforms like iRoko TV need to think at this level to provide tangible reasons for consumer adoption.

In the meantime, let’s just unbundle the bundles and provide real value to consumers!

À la carte programming anyone?



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