When AfricaXP launched PremiumFree TV in West Africa in late 2018, the service instantly made waves in Ghana and Nigeria. It was a 13-channel offering that looked and behaved exactly like a high-value Pay TV service in all respects except one – it was free and transmitted unencrypted!
On the 1st of May this year, exactly two and a half years later, it will be available on more satellite dishes than any other multichannel bouquet in Sub-Saharan Africa – thanks to the reach and neighborhood delivered by a transponder on the Intelsat 20 (IS-20) satellite.
“Broadcasting unencrypted not only means that the service can be offered free of charge, it also means that the channels can be instantly received on dishes and decoders already owned, installed and connected” explains AfricaXP CEO, Craig Kelly. “It’s all about instant reach for us and about no extra equipment or cost for the viewer.”
In eliminating the need for a service-specific decoder, marketing and distributing the PremiumFree model seeks to emulate MBC, who pioneered free-to-air DTH TV in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the late 90s. Now well over 90% of TV homes in MENA have access to free-to-air satellite TV.
AfricaXP has been very conscious of the need to be on satellites that have large numbers of dishes already aligned towards them and footprints covering the whole of their Sub-Saharan target market. The extension of PremiumFree onto IS-20 is a critical step in achieving the best possible reach – especially in Southern Africa where IS-20’s market position is so dominant.
After years of stagnation in the African TV market, characterized by the regular failure of new PayTV initiatives, Intelsat’s decision to seek out AfricaXP as a partner and allocate one of the few available transponders on IS-20 to PremiumFree is a vote of confidence in the PremiumFree project. Intelsat sees tremendous potential in the role that multichannel free-to-air TV delivered over satellite will play in the future of the African TV market.
“Many countries dealing with economic disparity or smaller populations struggle with making fibre and mobile broadband work. The satellite can play a vital role in delivering rich media content to all corners of the continent well into the future,” said Intelsat’s Senior Account Director, Christell Meyer.
PremiumFree has been transmitting a promo channel on IS-20 since 7th January in order to give millions of IS-20 free to air viewers a sample of the content to be included in its 25-channel bouquet, which will formally launch on 1st May. “It’s exciting to be able to offer a compelling multichannel bouquet to such a large and underserved market,” said Kelly. He says he has always felt that free-to-air TV is critical in stimulating the market by offering value to a segment that can’t afford to pay regularly for premium content, if at all.
“A strong media industry is symbiotic for all the actors – strong free to air drives penetration of TV sets stimulates content development, and grows viewing habits. Heavy viewers attract advertisers and are more likely to subscribe to PayTV services. We hope to make our contribution to stimulating activity to the benefit for all players.” said Kelly.