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The challenges facing broadcasters and producers in Nigeria today are numerous, but what is emerging is a strong base upon which to build and grow the exciting possibilities of the future.  We need to keep our focus on what viewers want to watch and listen to in this age of consumerism.  We must stay abreast of the emerging challenges and trends and provide solutions that answer to the questions.

One of the key factors in Nigeria is that Household usage and adoption of communications services will accelerate as more people are provided access to the mobile phone, Internet and affordable cable services.  Mobile phone usage will increase and in a country where the 60% of the population is below 30, the number of connections to make low-cost calls, SMS and access downloadable content on the phone will start to make major in roads to traditional content platforms.

In many sectors, increased usage or signing up for new or more advanced services would inevitably lead to increased costs to the consumer. However, in the communications sector, a combination of new technology, intense competition between providers and regulatory intervention, where required, will lead to significant reductions in retail prices.

Consumer choice and convenience make the consumer the king.  They are completely in charge these days concerning what they watch and where they watch it.  For these very reasons the media who spend most of their lives producing content need to be excited at the prospects and study the trends of the industry, what is happening and where it is going.

Not only do we need to now start developing new models for our business, we need to start understanding even more what the consumer wants, and where he wants to get it.  This obviously is not as easy as it sounds.  Walking the talk can be expensive, moreso when we look at changing technology and the requirements of producing multi formatted content.  There are many issues to be resolved such as multicasting, the role of the Internet, compensation for content, protection of intellectual property and so many other parameters.  However, playing a defensive game will leave you behind.  Attack is the best form of defense and our future as broadcasters and producers will depend on our creative skills and abilities to exploit every opportunity and technology on every platform available from Satellite and cable to mobile and gaming.

“With the launch of mobile advertising in South Africa, Vodacom is entering the media space in line with its strategy to diversify into a multimedia company. It is a huge new market and we estimate mobile media ad-spend in South Africa could reach  USD200 by 2011,” according to Romeo Kumalo, Vodacom South Africa`s Commercial Executive Director.

“Vodacom is optimising its distribution and marketing know-how to grow horizontally in a market, with cellphone penetration at more than 80%.

“More than 25 million cellphones will become a potent new advertising medium with mobile advertising, putting the power to control advertising exposure in the consumer`s hands. This moves away from the traditional advertising medium that `pushes` the message to the consumer, to a medium where the consumer `pulls` the advertising they are interested in.

Mobile advertising has a number of major strengths: “Its reach is enormous. It offers advertisers immediacy; can be targeted to demographics, usage patterns and time of day; can generate responses; and is an intelligent one-to-one, interactive marketing tool.  Imagine other types of content on the mobile, series, promos and other video content

“This development is expected to change the advertising landscape significantly. Marketing research showed 52% of brands were expected to commit 5% to 25% of their budgets to mobile advertising within five years. “This is not surprising, as mobile advertising is an especially effective avenue to the lucrative 19 to 29-year-old young, urban and single consumers with substantial spending power. These consumers have grown up with cellphones and are at the forefront of a technology revolution that will eventually become far more standard in the way we communicate with empowered consumers,” he said.

Vodacom has run a trial mobile advertising campaign with leading brand Nike over the past three months. “It proved a very popular pull-mechanism, with more than 84 000 content downloads such as wallpapers and 9 200 survey responses, far exceeding the client’s expectations.

One of the most interesting trends is the striking evidence that our very young and growing ‘networked generation’ is turning away from television, radio and newspapers in favour of online services, including downloadable content – used on multiple devices such as iPods and mobile phones – and participation in online communities such as facebook and youtube etc.

Despite the power of television to a largely rural audience, the evidence is that Television is of declining interest to many 16-24 year olds in the urban areas; Of the television they do watch, an even smaller proportion of their time is spent viewing public service broadcasting channels. Instead, the Internet plays a central role in daily life.

The same group also uses mobile phones extensively, on average making more calls and sending more texts per week than the wider Nigerian population.

Extensive use of the Internet also continues to influence 15-24 year olds’ consumption of other media. Their radio listening is getting lower compared to the wider population; additionally they read newspapers less as a consequence of their online usage.

No matter the channel or medium though it is no longer debatable that content is King.  Key considerations as we propel ourselves on this journey will include distribution. The ability to provide and distribute content on multi channel platforms will be significant as Nigerian Producers and broadcasters get ahead of the game and source for the significant revenue streams available.  A key factor is that content produced here would have to meet international production standards and be available everywhere and on any type of device.  We need to incorporate and work with Telco’s, broadcasters, content aggregators and media distribution agents.  Our future is all about distributing signals to every device available and producing the content that fits the device.

We must start to look closer at new devices and what they mean to our business model and revenue prospects.  New devices are potentially users of the content TV producers provide, and new stream of programmes are potential revenue streams.  Planning ahead is key, and staying abreast of technology led solutions even more important because really we need to provide content on every new device, even those waiting to be created.

There are other issues of course, which we all know, Copyright, business models, technology adaptations and revenue channels, however what is most important is how we adapt to the changes and embrace the future.

Lets look at some important pointers.  In a recent Media report published by MediaReach Limited, Lagos, I have been able to establish from this report and their previous reports over the past three years the following:

In an important change in habits, viewers in Free-to-air households now spend more time watching privately owned TV channels than any one of the state or Federal Government owned channels.

Advertising and Sponsorship revenue remains the largest source of funding for television channels in Nigeria with revenues up by 18% on previous years for some stations.   Overall, television industry revenues increased by 21% from last year based mostly on increase spend from the Telco and Financial sector of the economy.

Regarding online and new media services, the office of Communication (OFCOM) reports and I quote “Online advertising continues to grow in importance as a mass marketing medium, attracting significant revenues away from other media. These trends are likely to continue as new technology and new products expand choice and availability”.

With Mobile phones playing an increasingly important role in consumers’ daily lives. Many households now have a mobile phone as a landline phone; and for the first time, the proportion of households relying on mobile phones exclusively is significant enough to start looking at emerging opportunities in this realm.

Mobiles are becoming the preferred means of making calls in many households. Greater competition, falling prices and the erosion of traditional revenues and audiences are transforming the sector. A new generation of consumers is emerging for whom online is the lead medium and convergence is instinctive

For broadcasters the challenges are even more daunting, if they hope to be in business many years from now they must start to chart a new course and develop business models that guarantees viewers and advertisers value.  Their scheduling and programming must offer compelling content, and they must start to understand that they must open up revenue sharing options with partners and producers as they build enduring brands that have resonance in the market place.

Broadcasters must be able to take advantage of the digital platform and the great opportunities it offers.  If they cannot show consumers the exciting possibilities how on earth will advertisers and sponsors get on board the plane!   Many Nigerians today even those in the industry do not even have any iota of an idea what the digital realm offers.  Their minds are numb; they don’t even know where to start.

As Producers and broadcasters, it is our responsibility to start providing some of these answers to consumers, advertisers, and professionals alike.  We must start to show our consumers and viewers that the exciting possibilities are quite within our grasp.  That we have a plan to move from where we are today and build an enduring content production sector that truly provides great entertainment, first-class information and an enduring platform that has commercial viability through the provision of compelling content distributed to the many digital devices available today.



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