Is HD Free-To-Air TV Possible in Ghana?

Is delivering HD Free-To-Air in Ghana doable?

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High-definition (HD) broadcasting has seen a significant rise globally, with many countries transitioning to provide HD content to meet the growing demand for superior picture quality.

In recent years, the focus has shifted towards making HD content accessible not just through PayTV services but also via free-to-air (FTA) models.

Global Trends and African Context

Globally, the adoption of HD broadcasting is well-established, with many countries having fully transitioned to HD transmissions. In Africa, this trend is emerging, driven by the increasing availability of HD-capable televisions and a rising demand for higher-quality viewing experiences. While the continent faces unique challenges in infrastructure and economic constraints, there are notable strides being made towards HD broadcasting.

Ghana’s Progress Towards HD Broadcasting

In Ghana, various platforms have started delivering HD content, traditionally a domain of PayTV services. This movement towards HD content is facilitated by the broader availability of HD-capable TVs and devices in the market, alongside a growing appetite for high-quality content among Ghanaian audiences.

Delivering HD content via FTA in Ghana is achievable but comes with specific challenges. Key among these is the need for increased transmission capacity to handle the higher bandwidth required for HD signals, which are significantly more demanding than standard definition (SD). This necessitates substantial investments in upgrading infrastructure, including satellite capacity and transmission equipment, or collaborating with third-party platforms.

Market Readiness and Business Models

Despite these hurdles, the readiness of the Ghanaian market for HD content is improving, as more households acquire HD-capable devices. This creates an opportunity for platform owners to distinguish themselves in a competitive market by offering superior HD content.

The business models for TV platforms are evolving, influenced by the rise of online streaming services. Traditional subscription-based models, where viewers pay for access to a bundle of channels, coexist with FTA models, where channels rely on advertising revenue. There is also a hybrid model combining elements of both, offering basic FTA channels alongside premium subscription services.

Free HD channels  for 5 Million Homes: Bold Move by SES HD PLUS

A notable example of this shift is the bold initiative by SES HD PLUS to partner with its HD channel providers to offer their channels free-to-air. This is a major business pivot from their initial subscription-based model where viewers at home had to pay. This strategy leverages existing relationships and broadens the reach of HD content throughout the MultiTV platform, which reaches over 5 million homes across West and Central Africa.

I remember vividly the launch of HD channels on DStv in 2019 throughout Africa. In Ghana, it started with the two channels MNet HD and Supersport HD. This was met with a lot of customer excitement and delight, specifically for movies and sports events through the more exciting crystal-clear viewing experience. For sports fans, that HD feature enhanced the viewing details and an enhanced affinity. Another addition was made with Discovery HD towards the end of the year. These additions positively impacted the launch of the HD+ Service later in 2020 in Ghana, especially with a more affordable subscription pricing proposition.

The shift towards delivering HD content on multiple platforms in Ghana represents a significant opportunity for platform owners to attract and retain listeners and viewers, as well as to drive growth in the region’s digital entertainment industry and evolving media landscape with a chance of increased HD content licensing.

To succeed in delivering HD FTA, SES HD PLUS and similar platforms must focus on:

Partnerships with Content Providers: Securing broadcasting rights for a diverse range of HD content to attract viewers. The change by SES HD PLUS offers content producers an opportunity to rethink their production quality, processes, and output so HD content can be sourced locally, driving growth in the under-patronized local content production industry.

Emerging Advertising Revenue Sources: Broadcasters can leverage the high picture quality of HD channels to collaborate with advertisers and businesses, attracting non-traditional channels such as travel, shopping, and experience-based advertisers. This presents a significant opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves in a competitive market by offering high-quality HD-based advertising to their audiences.

Marketing and Promotion: Raising awareness about the availability and benefits of HD content through effective campaigns.

Revenue-Sharing Models: Developing business models that allow platform owners, advertisers, and broadcasters to benefit from this innovation.

Conclusion

From my perspective, initiatives like HD+ free-to-air demonstrate the feasibility of HD FTA broadcasting in Ghana with the adoption of the right business model. The increasing prevalence of HD-capable TVs and the growing demand for high-definition content indicate a strong market potential. By leveraging strategic partnerships, robust distribution channels, and effective marketing, platforms can tap into this opportunity and contribute to the democratization of HD viewing in Ghana.

The successful introduction of HD channels by platforms like DStv has already shown that there is a significant appetite for HD content, particularly for movies and sports. This positive reception underscores the potential for FTA HD broadcasting to thrive in Ghana. With the right investments and strategic approaches, delivering HD content via free-to-air models in Ghana is not only possible but also a promising avenue for enhancing viewer experience and driving industry growth.

The Author, Cecil Sunkwa-Mills is the President of Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), and Former Managing Director, MultiChoice Ghana

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