Africa's pay-TV revenue for the year 2016 stood at $4.4 billion and is forecast to reach $6 billion by 2021.
This is according to market research firm Dataxis, which notes that for the year ending 2016, Africa's pay-TV subscribers stood at approximately 18.7 million, which represents an increase of approximately two million subscribers compared to the previous year.
Dataxis' research team has rolled out a new TV tracker product for Sub-Saharan Africa. The service provides quarterly reporting of the pay and distribution statistics for all TV channels active in the region. More than 1 000 channels were analysed and 25% of the channels are generalists, 19% are movies and fiction, and 9% represent sport channels.
Out of the 18.7 million subscribers, the market research firm says 14 million are direct-to-home (DTH) subscribers and the remaining represent mostly pay digital terrestrial television (DTT) with limited cable and IPTV deployments.
The key players for the Sub-Saharan African region are Naspers (approximately 56%), Canal+ (approximately15%) and StarTimes (9%).
"The satellite operator MultiChoice, owned by Naspers, has been the key player in the Anglophone Africa pay-TV market since its launch. However, the new entrant of the year, Econet Media/Kwesé, along with in particular further deployments by StarTimes, will change this configuration," says Pascal Orhan, chief analyst at Dataxis.
Regarding the DTT migration process, the full transition is still far from completed, says Dataxis. One of the main issues is distribution of millions of DTT set-top boxes (STBs) to low income households, with associated industrial policies that are leading to further delays, it notes.
Dataxis predicts the DTT process should be completed in Sub-Saharan African by 2021. After missing the 2015 digital migration deadline for countries to migrate from analogue to DTT, SA subsequently began the registration process for STBs required to transmit digital signals.
The South African government has promised to subsidise five million TV-owning households with free STBs.
"Pay-TV operators like Naspers, Canal+ and StarTimes play an important role in the channel edition, as 18% of all the channels belong to one of them. They focus mainly on movies and fiction and sports, as the two genres account for almost three-quarter of all the channels they edit," adds Orhan.
Meanwhile, video-on-demand (VOD) services are also gaining traction in Africa, with players like Naspers-owned ShowMax and US-based Netflix making inroads.
Last year, ShowMax said that less than a year after launch, its subscription VOD service had passed the 10 million views milestone.
Analysts believe content will determine if Netflix can gain a big market share in Africa.
Although Netflix is popular, it is not at the level of ShowMax for three reasons: ShowMax has more local content, Netflix does not allow subscription to its US service through IP-masking services, and ShowMax is heavily marketed in SA, says World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck.
Africa Analysis' Richard Hurst says although Netflix will certainly shake up the market, the most serious challenge facing the company in Africa will be the ability to deliver a consistent quality service with an appropriate depth of content.