Broadcast News

Two events at the end of last year highlighted that Africa has now reached a crossroads in terms of how its broadcast sectors operate. 35% of countries in Africa now have TV stations other than a sole Government broadcaster: others are joining this list but far too slowly. A report for the African Telecommunications Union which was presented at an event in Nairobi just before Christmas identified that with the exception of a dozen states, almost all other African countries have considerable spectrum resources to expand their TV markets.

Dear Readers, Contributors and Advertisers

The broadcast and film sectors had a good year in 2011 with higher levels of foreign investment interest and some signs that some of the distribution blockages are beginning to be unlocked. Nevertheless in a highly competitive field, there were casualties and there may be more along the way in 2012.

Key developments we’ve noted this year include:

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Trace Africa joins Channel O and MTV Base Africa in offering Africans the chance to see their own music on TV. Trace is going through a growth spurt with Trace Urban, Trace Tropical and Trace Sports expanding its brand, both in Africa and elsewhere. But Trace Africa will also raise the profile of the continent’s music globally. Balancing Act Senior Analyst Sylvain Beletre talks to Nadeige Tubiana, VP Africa at Trace on the new channel's deployment and how Africans can benefit from it.

Q. How can people get to watch Trace Africa?

 

Headquartered in Kigali, Rwanda's capital city, TV company Tele10 started in one of Africa’s smallest countries, Burundi, but it has ambitions to change how television is delivered and to become an East African player. Its CEO Eugene Nyagahene announced his intentions over the broadcast stream of AfricaCom, 'AfricaCast' held in November 2011. Nyagahene says he’s been “watching the way kids watch TV” and wants to introduce hybrid TV, delivered on any device and both Pay and Free-To-Air.

The African diaspora is one of the keys to changing the financial circumstances of both African TV and film. It represents a niche audience that will pay hard currency for content from “back home” and diaspora content often leaks out into the host society. Witness the trajectory of reggae and Bollywood out of diaspora communities. Sylvain Beletre looks at the scale and potential of this opportunity and gets insights from to Pierre Gaillardon, Director of Audience Studies at Qualiquanti in Paris.

Something that would have seemed crazy two years ago in Africa can now quite easily be considered a part of the near future. Bandwidth and internet users are now at the point where mass live streaming services make very good sense. The number of mobile phones able to receive live streams is probably larger than you think. Plus there are interesting business models to monetize the content. Russell Southwood looks at what live streaming has to offer Africa.

Nollywood is a huge continental film phenomenon but it has survived with a business model that clunks along the bottom as it is largely seen (by the yard) on television or on pirated VCDs. At the other end of the spectrum, African film is an greenhouse flower nurtured by international (mainly French) funding and seen mainly in European art-house cinemas and festivals. The release in early October of Congolese director Djo Tunda Wa Munga’s Viva Riva! in 18 African countries may be the first sign that African film is in reset mode and this time it might become commercial.

The Arab Spring has provided much needed momentum for Free-To-Air broadcast liberalisation in North Africa. The pace of change has been matched in Sub-Saharan Africa where the domestic airwaves are opening up to something more than Mr President TV and satellite Pay TV for the well-heeled elite, with the exception of North Africa where Satellite TV is a more democratic affair. Russell Southwood looks at those that have now got their foot on the accelerator and at the traffic jam at the back of the queue.

What makes people laugh is widely watched. Local African comedy programmes of any quality nearly always shoot to the number one audience position. However, African broadcasters have been slow to take the local laughter medicine: one hit comedy show in East Africa is still buying its own airtime. The recent pitching session at DISCOPRO in Nairobi highlighted the talent available (also see video clips at the bottom of this article). These shows also lend themselves to high levels of online viewing.