Advanced Television

Digital TV accelerates in Sub-Saharan Africa

January 9, 2013

About 35.3 per cent of TV homes (14.0 million) in Sub-Saharan Africa took digital signals by end-2012, according to a report from Digital TV Research. The Digital TV Sub-Saharan Africa report forecasts that digital TV penetration will rocket to 95.5 per cent by 2018 – with household numbers quadrupling to 49.0 million. Full digital transition will have been completed in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia by end-2015.

Report author Simon Murray said: “Even we have been surprised by the pace of change and progress in the region’s television market in the year since the last edition of this report. These are exciting times for Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Two-thirds of the region’s TV households still received analog terrestrial signals by end-2012, though this proportion will drop to 4.5 per cent in 2018. Two-thirds of television homes will take DTT (pay and free-to-air combined) in 2018, up from only 11.7 per cent at end-2012. Sub-Saharan Africa will have 33.8 million DTT homes by 2018 – 25.7 million FTA and 8.0 million pay – up from 4.6 million in total at end-2012.

The most prominent DTT players are China-based StarTimes (active in 10 countries with about 1.5 million Sub-Saharan Africa subs) and Multichoice’s GOtv (operational in five countries).

South Africa’s Multichoice also owns DStv, its long-established pay DTH platform that controls valuable exclusive rights deals (such as live English Premier League soccer). Greater competition (especially from cheaper DTT players) led to DStv lowering prices to some of its packages. However, the launch of sister service GOtv gives Multichoice the ability to target all demographics in the pay TV market.

France’s CanalSat/Canal Plus Afrique is the other major regional pay DTH player, although it does not compete too much with DStv as they separately target countries with their respective languages.

However, DStv faces more direct rivalry in East Africa from Kenya-based Wananchi Group. Wananchi is targeting the 15 million TV households that it forecasts for East Africa by 2015. With cable operations established in Kenya, Wananchi launched its Zuku DTH platform in 10 East African countries in July 2011.

Only a small proportion of African homes can afford premium DTH packages. There were 7.36 million pay DTH subscribers by end-2012, with the total expected to rise to 11.27 million in 2018. Excluding South Africa, the number of pay DTH households will double between 2012 and 2018 to 6 million.

Of the 9.26 million pay TV subscribers at end-2012, 79 per cent were for pay DTH. The pay total will double to 20.39 million by 2018. Pay TV penetration of television households will grow from 23.3 per cent in 2012 to 39.8 per cent in 2018.

Sub-Saharan pay TV revenues will reach $4.62 billion in 2018, up from $2.88 billion in 2012. DTH accounted for nearly all of the 2012 total, though pay DTT will make inroads (contributing $744 million in 2018).

South Africa will remain the dominant pay TV revenue generator. However, its share of the total will fall from 61 per cent in 2012 to 47 per cent in 2018. Excluding South Africa, pay TV revenues will rocket from $1.12 billion in 2012 to $2.46 billion in 2018.

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