IP&TV News talks digital switchover and more with Nagra’s Christopher Schouten…
IP&TV News: Christopher you’ll be appearing at TV Connect Africa 2015. How is Nagra involved in the question of digital switchover in Africa?
Christopher Schouten: We’ve been working for a very long time in Africa to advocate that digital switchover make considerations for the possibility to offer pay services on top of the public interest free-to-air services that are part of digital switchover.
Very few regions in the world which have had digital terrestrial have allowed for a commercial proposition as part of digital terrestrial – so the approach of many African countries to create a win-win Public-Private Partnership is refreshing and ultimately will serve the best interests of the consumer, who will be able to receive both free channels as well as pay for premium content if they choose. That’s why in Africa we’ve been advocating for the inclusion of the possibility for encryption to be included in set top boxes – to provide the infrastructure to make that possible.
Government, industry and consumers all benefit when there is a common platform created that allows all parties to participate.
What are the advantages of encryption for PPP here?
Number one is that, when you encrypt the basic services, you can essentially make the set top box useless for migration outside of the intended service area. Imagine that, as is the case, the government is subsidising the availability of set top boxes to citizens, but those same set top boxes could be used in other territories around the world – they’re going to find their way out the country very quickly. The first priority there is making sure you protect the investment of government in set top box subsidies. Only allowing encrypted services on set top boxes is one excellent way to do that if governments choose to do so. Encrypting services also ensures that only certified, quality-controlled set-top boxes can be used, which ultimately prevents potentially costly citizen complaints and bad PR about unauthorized STBs which are not quality-controlled. Encryption can also be used as a mechanism to generate government revenues by guaranteeing the collection of digital access fees or television licenses. So it has many advantages.
The other major advantage is that, while it’s very clear to us that these boxes will primarily serve the public interest for reception of basic view channels, it opens up the possibility for pay services as an add-on for consumers who wish to have them. We’ve seen an excellent example of that for many years, in Italy, with companies like Mediaset (which one of our customers there). From the very beginning the Italians were smart enough to envision this public-private partnership for set top box usage. The advantage to the consumer is you’ve got one box – all the basic services are free, and if they want to they can go out and you can buy a smart card, stick it in the box and it will work for a number of pay channels without any additional set top box investment required.
You’re presenting at TV Connect Africa on ‘lessons learned’ from successful digital switchovers – what other themes will this encompass?
I’ll talk about some case studies like Mediaset, because I think the opportunity in Africa is very similar. I’m also going to also talk about some exciting business models and opportunities that have worked in other places around the world for digital and over the top and other technologies that would work well in an African context – understanding that there are limits in broadband penetration and speed, and looking at some ideas that would work well within those constraints.
The one thing we know is that, while Africa is somewhat broadband constrained, Africans have eagerly embraced mobile technology very strongly – so we’ll talk about how can you leverage the infrastructure of a digital terrestrial or satellite service, and then make that available to all these different devices within the home without requiring high-speed fixed or mobile broadband. There are ways to do that which can create interesting opportunities in an African context.
TV Connect Africa has grown incredibly quickly in a very short amount of time. What makes it such a special event?
Africa is a continent of oral traditions, where people come together to share stories and teach each other things, and I think this event is an excellent example of the best of that. It shows that people are eager to learn, to share and to make life better, together. We are honored to participate in this time-honoured tradition at TV Connect Africa!