From the onset, the introduction of television to Nigeria in 1959 was basically for political and education reasons. But shortly after establishing this audio-visual medium of communication in Nigeria, government, corporate bodies and individuals realised the potentials and opportunities that television presents.
In time, TV became a powerful tool for information, education and entertainment. It became a medium for the government to create awareness on national integration and cultural promotion, corporate bodies on the other hand, saw TV as a medium through which they could promote and market their products and services and many parents; including mine saw television as a means of learning and acquiring skills for self-development.
But when in 1996 the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) licenced 38 internet service providers to sell internet services in Nigeria, many ICT exponents, thought that this would be the new technology to dethrone television as a medium of influence. True, the internet is undoubtedly a powerful medium of communication. But its power and influence does not in any way replace or reduce the influence of television as a broadcast medium.
This speculation is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. When the internet launched in America, many in the industry thought that television viewing experience had finally come to an end especially with the introduction of Netflix and other internet-based movie streaming services.
Reports confirm that in the United States of America in the fourth quarter of 2017, Netflix had well over 54.75 million subscribers. Still, more and more people are turning to the internet for their television content. Despite the immense impact of Netflix in America and other parts of the globe, it is pertinent to note that subscribers cannot stream movies on their mobile phone, tablet or laptop without the internet and having internet requires that you have data. Thus, no internet, no viewing.
Having a Netflix account does not stop more Americans from watching traditional TV or even pay-TV. The reasons behind these are because television viewing is addictive and besides being addictive, TV gives viewersâ€™ variety of channels to choose from and with the large screen viewing experience and live programme opportunities, the movie streaming companies are still a few steps behind on this.
Even with the introduction of Netflix and Showmax to the Nigerian and African markets, traditional TV has not been neglected. This is because traditional cable TV has the potential to showcase more content. For example, pay TV companies like DStv has over 200 channels to choose from and with as low as $17, a DStv subscriber can get a Compact package and get the opportunity to watch over 95 channels. Unfortunately, $7 cannot buy data that will last for a month if you decide to download and watch Netflix movies through the mobile providers in Nigeria.
Another unique aspect of traditional TV is that it has the ability to show live sports. The 2018 World Cup is around the corner and I bet that the Netflixâ€™s and Showmaxâ€™s of this world will not stream these live matches. But pay TV companies will broadcast all 64 live matches.
An analyses of Nigeriaâ€™s population figure and the number of people who have embraced the internet in Nigeria is a clear indication that traditional television viewing cannot be replaced by the internet. Currently, Nigeria has a population of 170 million and internet penetration in Nigeria is well close to 50 per cent, which is the highest in Africa. Yet so many more Nigerians do not have access to the internet especially in rural locations.
Reports also have it that the population of Africa as a continent is 1.216 billion and only 216 million are internet users. This figure is poor but the reality of it is that many more Africans still prefer their traditional and pay-TV, as the streaming TV is still not pocket-friendly.
Again, a comparative analyses of Nigeria, the U.S. and Europe indicates that internet TV would deliver its content seamlessly without hiccups but in Nigeria and Africa as a whole this may not be the case because the mobile companies still have some ways to go to achieve reliable connectivity, making it frustrating to stream or even download a movie effortlessly. Many here in Nigeria keep their options open, alternating between a streaming service or pay TV.
Internet TV service may at first appear much cheaper than pay TV, but I would emphasise that it still requires a connection to the internet and lots of bandwidth. This will undoubtedly cost people more. Some mobile service providers are among those likely to offer internet TV. For example, on average, internet usage in a month is about $33 and Netflix download can consume as much as 3-7GB per hour. This is a clear indication that even a prudent data user will barely last a week with this plan.
No doubt, the internet has come to stay and the television cannot be phased out anytime soon and pay-TV providers like DStv would continue to provide its subscribers with wholesome family entertainment and economically empower more Nigerians.
. Adeoya is an ICT analyst based in Lagos