7 Oct 2013

The digital television, free and pay TV, to help the African audiovisual creation

By Hervé BOTREL, VP Product Department at Neotion 

Local creation and broadcasting of content is a key issue of African cultural independence and therefore of its growth.
The typical value chain of the audiovisual sector is as follows:

In Africa – North and Sub-Saharan regions -  this chain shows problems in many of its links. Only content creation ideas are running well. Their making, however, faces several obstacles that limit their realization.

On the one hand, copyright is not respected as confirmed by Ousmane William Baye, Art Director and Producer Senegalese, who said at the African Film Festival held in Angers last April: "In Africa, authors do not exist, televisions do not buy movies and theaters close. " and he adds," Our industry is a subsidized one ". On the same subject, the Malian filmmaker Souleymane Cissé adds "Our films are neither distributed nor viewed in Africa. The televisions do not buy our movies. In fact, we cannot even pretend to any rights in our country. "

To live from their art, filmmakers contract directly with foreign companies in countries where they are successful - such as in France where some of the African filmmakers are affiliated to the SACD (Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers), feeding a vicious circle from which African cinema struggling to emerge.
Another issue is with the distribution. Because of the lack of distribution networks, the financing of movies is often complicated. According to Claire Diao from Clapnoir (www.clapnoir.org) "without any sustainable business model, the production of a film remains an issue” Ousmane William Baye adds that "the only way to overcome the crisis of cinema in Africa, is to think television."

Indeed the audience is still very limited to festivals that represent the bulk of the distribution of local content. But television channels have a bad habit of charging writers and producers prior to distribute their works. Contributing thus a few to the investments required to grow the African audio-visual sector.

How then being released from the current deadlock and how the technology can positively contribute to the takeoff of the African cinema to, is the purpose of this paper.

Let’s have a look to what works
, particularly in Europe and namely in France. Beyond the term "cultural exception" promoted by France and recently excluded from the trade negotiations between the US and the Europe, there is an economic reality.

Firstly, the Culture is one of the few sectors that, despite the crisis, are doing well in Europe. Recent statistics indicate that the cultural and creative industries - from theater to architecture, music and design - represent 4.5% of EU GDP and 3.8% of its jobs (source FICDC September 2013).

This was made possible namely thanks to the obligations imposed to the broadcasters at contributing to the audiovisual creation rather than only "plunder" movies and series coming from the USA to feed their schedulers. Quotas were established fostering the local creation, and financial resources were provided. Not by the government but by the economic actors themselves impulse by laws.

In practice, this funding comes from the TV channels which still capture a significant share of the overall advertising investments ( 42% of the worldwide advertising market, value stabilized for years despite the advent of the Internet - source: Zenithopyimedia data) and divert their revenues in taxes destined to contribute to the audiovisual creation.

However the model works if and only if the number of TV channels is significant for keeping such contribution effort at an affordable level for each of them.

The digitization of the networks is in that respect a favorable factor which increases the network’s capacity and allows broadcasting more television channels. This should be positive for the local contents.

Pay TV influences positively the audiovisual creation too. Firstly because they trigger an air call for the local economy thanks to the improved delivery capabilities of TV channels looking for contents. Secondly, because they generate significant and steady income that could allow in return funds for local investment if regulations and decisions taken by the local governments are set specifically.

The equipment also has some role to play. Indeed, operators are facing significant operating expenses that they wish to reduce. This without compromising the security applied to protect their content, giving them access to premium ones and ensuring the sustainability of their revenues.
The booming of digital TV sets sales, offers operators a unique opportunity to grow the number of their subscribers. Indeed when those TVs are fitted with CI CAM Plus compliant with recognized standard – CI Plus – and deployed across Europe by almost all the Pay-TV operators, their service package are ready to be received easily. And they do not need any more STB which beyond their high cost, are generating substantial logistics investments for their deployment and maintenance.

The CI Plus CAM offers many advantages including, affordable cost of purchase and maintenance, shaped as small as a smartcard, easy to install and to operate and supporting the latest secured technology provided by conditional access companies.

To conclude, we think at NEOTION, that giving access to television to the largest population requires secured and value added content. This content shall offer a mix of international and local programs. And finally the operating costs for broadcasters and operators must remain limited to propose affordable and easy to access offers to the greatest number of people. The CI Plus CAM solutions developed by NEOTION suits perfectly with these objectives.

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