Brown: Why We Are Introducing Free-to-Air Channels

Clint Brown

The Vice President, Sales and Market Development for SES Video, Africa, Mr. Clint Brown, in this interview with Nosa Alekhuogie, speaks on the latest free-to-air local channel bouquet launched in Nigeria recently. Excerpts:

What are you introducing to the Nigerian market?

SES is working with Africa XP to deliver 13 new free-to-air (FTA) channels as a bouquet called ‘PREMIUM.FREE’ to Nigeria as well as to other parts of West Africa. The bouquet’s launch channels will be supplied by AfricaXP and delivered via SES’ satellite at 28.2 degrees East, a prime orbital location from where SES delivers Direct-to-Home (DTH) services to over 9 million households in West Africa. The SES is a world’s leading satellite operator with over 70 satellites. Its satellites deliver television services to more than 351 million households worldwide and network connectivity to over 130 countries. Today it carries over 7,900 channels and is the single operator carrying the most HD (2,700) and UHD (50) channels globally. SES has a media services subsidiary, MX1, which offers end-to-end solutions to enable broadcasters and media companies to easily deliver their content to multiple platforms.

In Africa, SES has been supporting the growth of digital TV in Africa for many years. It broadcasts over 900 channels in Africa, and hosts eight DTH platforms that serve over thirty million TV homes across the continent. With our 10 GEO satellites serving Africa, we are accelerating the digital switch-over in the region, and complementing Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). Satellites deliver signals to terrestrial TV towers in densely populated areas and directly to individual homes in sparsely populated regions.

Why are you partnering with PREMIUM.FREE to deliver this bouquet to Nigerian and West African markets?

The Nigerian FTA market is particularly vibrant and offers great opportunities for growth. The current market can be variable and with this offering of 13 channels, we hope to bring a new experience to viewers. The bouquet of PREMIUM.FREE is extremely attractive and we are confident it will foster consumer choice in the local market.
There are not often opportunities where there is a very large audience watching a particular satellite beam, and in this case, the SES 28.2 degrees East orbital location has been over West Africa which has about nine million households already looking at channels on that beam using FTA decoders. So if you place your channels on that beam, you immediately have an audience, you don’t have to advertise, you don’t have to sell boxes, you don’t have to distribute those boxes and nobody has to install anything new. All of these people already looking at that beam immediately sees those channels, this is a very exciting beam that covers the whole region and therefore reaches a lot of people. If the figure for Nigeria is 3.18 million and that amount of households are watching on satellite for that particular beam, it has increased dramatically. That figure from the SES research which was completed at the end of 2017 compared to the 2015 figure was about one million, it has grown very rapidly. We believe that’s a fantastic start by putting a bouquet of different thematic, nicely packaged kind of like a pay TV bouquet but for free. By putting it on there, we believe it would boost the number of people who are watching and have boxes and dishes tuned in that satellite.

Why did you decide to also partner with AfricaXP on this project?

AfricaXP is a digital content distributor that sells content to multiple broadcast platform throughout the region. In regards to this project, they are the supplier of channels to Premium free which is the bouquet on SES platform. We chose them to supply us the channels because we wanted premium channels and they focus particularly on customising Channels for African viewers, even if its international content, it would appeal to African audiences. It is a very different preposition to just taking cheap channels from any other market and rebroadcasting in this market. These channels are made by Africans for Africans.

What is unique about the PREMIUM.FREE bouquet offering?

The bouquet really stands out because it combines both local and international content that is attractive for end-consumers, and is offered in high picture quality. AfricaXP is the leading independent content distributor and producer, and the PREMIUM.FREE bouquet sourced from their library really showcases that. The bouquet is made up of African programming with top-flight international content across a diverse range of themes from sports to movies, Telenovelas, kids, factual, reality and lifestyle programming, all of which will be familiar to local audiences.

Do you need a set top box (STB) to receive the PREMIUM.FREE service if you have other service provider?

Anyone with a STB and satellite dish in West Africa can access the PREMIUM.FREE bouquet without charge from Astra 2G located at 28.2 degrees East. If a household’s dish already points towards the 28.2 orbital location all they need to do is use the stand search process on their STB and they should get the channel very easily. Others will need to hire a professional to repoint their dishes before using the search feature and they will get the new channels plus the rest of channel channels available from the platform at that orbital location. While the channels can be viewed using a 78 cm dish, the quality of the viewing experience, and resilience to disruption that is sometimes caused by rain, can better achieved using 90CM dish.

What is the ASTRA 2G satellite about?
We launched the ASTRA 2G satellite in 2014 to the prime orbital location of 28.2 degrees East. Since then SES has built the largest free-to-air reach in sub-Saharan Africa from the orbital location, now reaching over nine million Direct-to-Home households across West Africa from this orbital position. ASTRA 2G and a second satellite, ASTRA 2F, share the orbital location to complement each other and provide expanded coverage of the West African region. From these two, satellites audiences in the region can receive the largest proportion of local content of any satellite.