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Content revolution coming to Africa

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Ten years ago content on the Internet in Africa used to be a handful of newspaper websites and one or two other pioneering souls. Now you can hardly move for the number of new content platforms being launched and this is only the beginning.

The continent has always been rich in content but now it has the online means to make it available to other Africans, both on the continent and to its global diasporas.

A virtuous circle has finally been created. There is enough international fibre capacity hitting the shores of the continent to make wholesale and retail Internet access prices much cheaper. With cheaper prices for African consumers, the numbers of users have shot up.

This new wave of users is young and in search content and things to do. The almost vertiginous growth in African Facebook users almost irrespective of country bears witness to this need.Alexa.com that ranks websites has You Tube in its top 5 ranking for the 15 or so African countries it analyses.

The arrival of LTE in some countries is illustrating what the future might look like. Smile Telecom is delivering 6 Mbps download speeds using LTE in Uganda and Tanzania and reporting that video is the main use for all this new bandwidth.

iROKO: The biggest beast amongst all these new online film and music platforms is Nigeria’s iROKO (both on mobile ad PC), which carries film, music and TV. It received investment from US private equity fund Tiger Global and has been expanding its reach and not so long ago opened a South African office.

It has different parts including iROKOtv which has recently started distributing Nigerian TV series, including Heaven’s Gate, Clinic Matters and About To Wed. To date, iROKING, its free music online platform has 35,000 tracks in its catalogue dating from 1963 to the present day and 75,000 registered users in total. It also manages over 70 artist’s You Tube pages with more than 100 million views in the past 12 months. Its deal structure is 60/40 in favour of rights owners, the complete reverse of what the mobile companies are currently offering.

Its CEO Michael Ugwu is looking to grow that number to 1 million by the end of this year and to reach 10 million in five years time. Of that number, 70% would be outside Africa. It already has around 1 million uniques for its free Nollywood service iROKOtv.

It monetises and protects artists’ content for among others: P-Square, 2face, Bracket, Flavour, Omawumi, Timaya, Duncan Mighty, Lynxxx. The company has significantly reduced piracy of Nigerian music content to near zero. iROKING also audio ID’s digitally fingerprint sound recordings on You Tube to ensure rights are protected and also publishes Nigerian music content to the iTunes and Amazon stores for diaspora consumption (paid downloads etc).

‚”For now we stream content for free. We pay license fees to large artists for exclusive partnerships. The freely available nature of Nigerian music content on sites like 4shared, Hulkshare, etc. stifles any move to charge the online audience. Critical mass audio ads and monthly subscriptions will come online. For now ad revenue is our primary source of income‚”.

The company has also launched mobile applications for its music solution on the iOS, Android, Windows and Symbian (Nokia) mobile handsets. The application allows access to thousand of the latest Nigerian tracks and stream songs over Wifi or 3G. The iROKING Mobile Application features include: Favourite selected songs: Create playlists and share them via Twitter or Facebook: Integrated ‚’offline’ functionality where you can listen to your favourite tunes offline.

Ugwe sees the rise of smart and feature phones as a positive development and welcomes the introduction of LTE but is cautious about the immediate impact of either of these factors.

‚”As most people will access the internet for the first time on the mobile phones the advent of LTE is welcomed. My question will be around affordability.

For now our (iROKING/iROKOtv) Africa strategy is still heavily focused on delivering content to as wide a market as possible taking into the consideration device limitations and network limitations (m.rioking.com/m.irokotv.com). Most devices are still feature based and therefore rich content consumption will still be limited until smartphones (led by android) penetrate deeper into the space. I have high hopes for LTE but its success will be based on economics‚”.

See video clip interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bq-_I49rl0

Music only platforms

Spinlet: Nigeria’s Spinlet is a mobile music management and storage service launched at Midem in January 2012. It claims to have just under 500,000 subscribers and to be growing at 2-3% a day. Mark Redguard, Spinlet’s CMO told us that:‚”We’ve partnered with Tecno to pre-install the Spinlet application on their handsets. There has been an very good response from consumers who buy the affordable Tecno N3 smartphone, and find they have access to Spinlet. The partnership with Samsung continues with pre-installation of the Spinlet on the Galaxy Pocket‚”.

It has also partnered with Etisalat in Nigeria to provide an Estisalat Spinlet Music plan – where consumers can purchase daily, weekly or monthly data plans to access the Spinlet library of music. The partnership will provide Etisalat subscribers access to our music vault, with millions of local and international songs.

Spinlet is also anxious to get continental presence and to that end has opened an office in Cape Town, South Africa and hired 15+ developers.

See video clip interview here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4XkzkXVVaI

Tavoom: Africori’s main business model is to offer B2B services to African music platforms but it has created its own ‚”laboratory‚” service by running its own platform Tavoom Music. Its approach is not about offering in-depth catalogues but seeking to curate ‚”the best in African contemporary music‚Ķusing the wisdom and knowledge of some of the most talented musicians, DJs and tastemakers in the industry.‚” Therefore it has a weekly changing range of tracks.

It is aimed at both Africans on the continent and in the diaspora but says that it will appeal to anyone interested in African music. One of its innovations is a simple one: it has a free Song of the Day which can be downloaded at no charge, whereas the other tracks are on a pay-for basis. The other innovation is that its Music Store is available on the feature-phone platform biNu which has 4.8 million users globally, 1.5 million of which are in Africa.

See video clip interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYBBLjFs2B4

Mdundo: Another contender is Kenya’s Mdundo which its CEO Gustav Ericcson describes as ‚”iTunes for Africa‚”. It has hundreds of tracks and one of the musicians closely involved in its founding (at mobile accelerator 88mph) is Frasha from P Unit. Increased use levels are currently being driven by the popularity of Kenyan artists like Octopizzo and Rabbit. Its main platform is Opera Mini on Nokia handsets and it is thought to currently have around 20,000 users but is targeting 0.25 million by the end of 2013.

It can be accessed by any phone that can get a mobile or Wi-Fi data connection and it is launching an app soon for one of the better known mobile platforms and has Android on its road map.

See video clip interview here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHxjnoBcgiE

Also-rans: Waabeh.com is run by Kenyan studio owner Tim Rimbui. Waabeh means awesome or cool in street slang. Launched at the beginning of 2013, it has started with a partnership between Intel and Safaricom for the former’s Yolo phone. It garnered 2,000 streams in just two months. It aims to become more widely available on the web and through an Android based app. It currently has 70 artists with over 1,000 tracks. Its innovation is that it offers not just music but audio content for things like books, education and lifestyle content.

See video clip interview here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVkklWLmgrM

Apart from these above two solutions, other smaller African music streaming websites in francophone Africa include Musique Kabyle, djindo and afrique-music. Of course, there are many pirate sites and some that seek to negotiate a way to market.

South Africa’s KasiMP3 is a good example. It started life as Shipa (meaning Shop) offering tracks for R5 (US50 cents a track) but didn’t many takers so shifted over to free access. It had a run-in with industry body RISA (Recording Industry of South Africa) over existing artists’ tracks and is now focused on new talent.

See: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-06/07/kasimp3

Film and TV only

Buni TV: In its first year Buni TV had 2 million views and 0.5 million unique visitors who watched 100,000 hours of content. 60% of the views came from Africa and 40% from elsewhere (largely from the USA and the UK). This geographic skew is very different to iROKO’s where the larger percentage is in the rest of the world, among Nigeria’s large diasporas.

In terms of content, visitors can see 200 films in the free-to-view area and there are 500 other embedded videos such as trailers and interviews:‚”We want to enrich the overall content and obviously there is no bandwidth cost to embedding.‚” In due course there will be many more films available on a pay-for basis.

Soon Lora-Mungai wants to offer pay-for movies but at the moment she has only working assumptions that will be tested by piloting different price levels ‚”The general assumption from elsewhere is that with a fremium offer 10% of the free users will pay. We’d like to make that bigger and to do so by making it make more accessible on mobile. The exact price range for users is complicated because we will be offering the content at so many prices to different markets globally.‚” However, the working assumption is that US$5 a month for unlimited access may turn out to be the ‚”sweet spot. The prices we have in mind are just the working idea and we will firm them up in partnership with Safaricom.‚”

‚”We want to make it so that if anybody subscribes, they can access it wherever they are across a range of devices.‚” So whether you are on a smartphone, tablet or your work computer, all you will have to do is log in.

Buni TV has Gado’s The XYZ Show (it is part of the same company) for 6 months of the year to drive traffic. The XYZ Show is a ‚”Spitting Image‚”-style political satire show with puppets. But it has also launched a 40 episode long comedy shorts series with improvisational sketches.

The humor both laughs at Africa itself and at how people see Africa from outside:‚”We wanted to experiment but do something for as little money as possible. The format is improv sketches against a white background. Some of the sketches are just one person or two people, while others are ensemble. There are some recurring characters and some one-offs. Each clip is a sketch. I just bought African comedians together in my living room. They loved having the freedom to tackle whatever they wanted‚”.

It is just about to release another series of 40 sketches and these will look at things like the police and the behavior of people queueing in the bank:‚”We gave freedom to the comedians to experiment and brainstorm sketch ideas. So they are the things they want to do and say and this freedom has produced great performances‚”.

* Source: www.smartmonkeytv.com

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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