Leading up to the online Forum on “Content Distribution Platforms And OTT Streaming Services”, Broadcast Media Africa talked with one of the event’s Supporting Partner representatives, Ms Thandi Davids. In representing The Independent Producers Organisation (IPO), Davids called for content creators, industry players, government, and corporate sponsors to challenge the high data cost status quo to ensure content-focused businesses’ advance in line with the growth of content consumption within digital platforms.
Davids further drew particular attention to broadcasters and major channels who are now monetising that content and wrangling it into productions that people are watching online. As a result, “investors are no longer traditional investors – you don’t have to go to the production houses, public and subscription-based broadcasters, or streaming services to commission content”.
Below is an excerpt of the conversation Thandi had with BMA on the forthcoming Forum where she is a presenter:
BMA: What influenced your decision to agree to be our supporting partner in the Hybrid Forum on “Content Distribution Platforms and OTT Streaming Services”?
Thandi Davids (IPO): We represent film, television and video producers, and in the digital space, they will be hugely impacted by the upcoming developments, changes of systems and processes and must be made fully aware of all available opportunities as we advance. In essence, we are looking to support our producers.
BMA: What is the biggest industry challenge faced currently in relation to content distribution platforms and OTT streaming services?
Thandi Davids (IPO): Access to data, storage and server costs are the most prominent financial barriers for most content creators. Given the large scale of these platforms, original content is also a significant challenge. In the age of streaming services, intellectual property ownership for independent producers is another serious challenge. It is crucial for content creators to own the intellectual property of their content. Specifically, from an African perspective, we need to own and access the back end of our stories.
BMA: In your opinion, what do you think can be done to improve existing strategies in order to assist maximise and attract customers and deliver value to stakeholders across the African continent?
Thandi Davids (IPO): Cost-effective access to content is the most challenging hurdle for most consumers, much like content creators’ data issues. It’s a similar challenge for consumers – hence SABC and YouTube are still leading in consumption rates. People shouldn’t have to struggle to access the content. The best strategy would be a collective effort from various industry players, government and corporate sponsors to lower the cost of data and educating consumers on how to consume regulated content online.
For example, YouTube, a Google product, has such high storage levels globally; you’re able to watch content from the lowest resolution in standard definition to the highest quality resolution. It is able to accommodate mobile phone users who use entry-level mobile devices to watch online content, all the way to users with high spec smartphones that can handle 4K video. They have this extraordinary algorithm and system where inclusivity is key.
In emerging markets, a lot of businesses, such as retail businesses, are run on mobile social media apps. Our product is content. We need to make it easy for people to watch our content. We can employ these strategies by using similar platforms that make it easier to distribute and access content than some of the mega streaming platforms that are currently available.
BMA: Could you please tell us what you hope fellow participants will take away from this industry event?
Thandi Davids (IPO): We’d like participants to come away with greater knowledge on the power they have to develop content and businesses on digital platforms. The opportunities are endless, and their role in advocating for lower data rates will only make their entry into digital media more accessible. It’s also important to start thinking beyond traditional content development and distribution models as it is possible to make a film on one’s phone today. Though storage is a barrier, it is wise to develop and distribute content that caters to easy viewing and low costs for the creator and the consumer – i.e. They should not make a feature until they can store it on a cloud service or hard drive afford. The power is in their hands.
There are corporate bodies that are advocating for content creators to make the best content they can. For example, in the development of cell phones over the past ten years, statistics have shown that the USP for most cell phones now is the camera. So the fact that we’ve gotten to a 4k camera isn’t because brands like Nokia, Samsung or Apple, were determined to make the best video camera.
Instead, it’s because content creators started creating content for YouTube and Youku on their phones. So consequently, they started manufacturing cell phones with better cameras. And because of this, the term “content creators” has evolved from just being film and TV producers; it now includes the average person making a home video of their dog in their house and sharing it with an audience.
Corporates have recognised that they can make a better camera phone, and they make it at an affordable rate. Open source cell phone companies are focused on ensuring that you can have an affordable phone that can make you the type of video content broadcast on television. So that is an extraordinary disruption that is coming at an affordable rate. We find that significant broadcasters and major channels are taking that content and wrangling it into content that people are watching online on those channels.
Investors are no longer traditional investors – you don’t have to go to the production houses, public and subscription-based broadcasters, or streaming services to commission content. However, suppose you want to hold on to your IP and create high-quality content that could end up on traditional television. In that case, you can speak to people who are not in the industry but are interested or aligned with what you do in some way, i.e. camera-phone, microphone manufacturers, etc.
There are lots of partners out there who are not traditional partners. Content creators are in the position to influence technological advances – everything that was traditionally available in edit suites is now accessible in consumer products. Portable microphones, lenses, editing and grading software are all available for cell phones. The power is literally in their hands.