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VoD provides a major distribution opportunity for African producers, TV channels and investors...now'

Distribution has always been a real headache for film producers globally but even more so in Africa due to lack of reliable, non-pirate distribution channels. With Fespaco 2013 about to start, VoD is emerging as a serious alternative distribution channel for African producers. Balancing Act’s broadcast analyst
Sylvain Beletre interviewed Marie Lora-Mungai, Founder and CEO, Buni TV and Enrico Chiesa, President of AfricaFilms.tv (AFTV) about their plans.

On 14 February 2013 Buni TV and www.AfricaFilms.tv, two of the leading African video-on-demand platforms, announced that they had entered into a content acquisition partnership, the first marriage in a fast-growing and increasingly fragmented sector.
 
Africa’s digital film distribution market has grown over the past 4 years, with several platforms launching their services around the same time, leading African media experts to question some of these companies’ capacity to survive. The Buni TV-AfricaFilms.tv partnership constitutes the first consolidation in this dynamic space.

 

 


 
« Our objective is to generate extra revenues to African producers. We have observed that there is now a very promising new generation of African filmakers, producing fast, pushing up new talents with high standards. 2012 was for example an excellent year for Senegalese filmakers; Africa is big, the diaspora is complex and it is hard to compete in the VoD space both on the sourcing and distribution sides»

The deal gives birth to the first African VOD solution to bridge East and West, English and French-speaking Africa. The two platforms will share their catalogues to target both the continental and diaspora audiences, but will continue to operate under their own brands.
 
"Our partnership opens an unprecedented monetization avenue for African & Caribbean filmmakers,” said Enrico Chiesa, CEO of AfricaFilms.tv. “By working together, AfricaFilms.tv and Buni TV will be able to distribute their content throughout Africa - from Dakar to Nairobi - and the entire diaspora. It's a "sign once, be seen everywhere" plan, with no middlemen taking their cut.”
 
Kenya-based Buni TV, which recorded an impressive debut with 300,000 unique visitors and more than a million views in just a few months, brings to the table its expertise in reaching African viewers through mobile.
 
AfricaFilms.tv, out of Dakar, Senegal, focused its efforts so far mainly on diaspora audiences. Historically the 1st African VOD web-platform (seed-funded by ACP-Cultures+ the ACP Group of states' cultural support program funded by the EU), it boasts a catalogue of about 1,000 premium titles and hours with a robust tracking and anti-fraud encryption system that won high marks from rights owners for its transparency.
 
The two African platforms also have a strong presence in Western markets, with Buni TV keeping offices in L.A., the United-States and AfricaFilms.tv in Paris, France. The newly formed alliance has extended their reach to New York, London and Barcelona.

In addition, ‘the new couple’ will be sending speakers and delegates the following events in 2013: in February at ‘the Berlin Film Festival’ and the Fespaco in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, then ‘Discop Africa’ in Johannesburg and DIFF in Durban, South Africa, ‘Mobile Web Africa’, ‘the Kenya International Film Festival’ and ‘the 2013 Broadcast, Film & Music Africa (BFMA) conference’ in Nairobi, ‘the Cannes film festival’ in France, ZIFF in Tanzania, ‘Africa in Motion’ in Scotland, ‘Film Africa’ in London, Cordoba Film Festival in Spain, and a few more.

“AfricaFilms.tv and Buni TV share a deep commitment to bringing the best African content to African audiences, wherever they may be and however they may want to consume it,” said Buni TV CEO Marie Lora-Mungai. “Our strengths are very complementary, and may well lead to future synergies in technology and marketing.”
 
Based on trafic, the AFTV billing system pays rights owners their share on a quarterly basis.

YouTube is the third most popular site in the world according to the three-month Alexa traffic rankings. Today, the video portal is huge in Africa, just next to Google, Facebook and Yahoo. The table below tells a lot about the excitment for online video service across the continent in spite of the poor bandwidth availability in many countries: YouTube is in the top 4 of the most dynamic countries.

Countries    Positions of YouTube
Algeria                 2
Cameroon            4
Cote d’Ivoire        5
Egypt                  3
Ghana                 4
Kenya                  3
Nigeria                4
Senegal               3
South Africa         3
Sudan                 3
Uganda               4
Source: Most visited websites, Alexa web site rankings in Feb 2013.

According to these figures, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa represent the 3 largest countries for YouTube in Africa, together representing 2,5% of the website’s visitors globally (equivalent to Spain’s share).

Marie Lora-Mungai and Enrico Chiesa both believe that « Further improvements in access bandwidth (3G/4G/LTE), access prices and affordable mobile devices – smartphones and tablets - will lead to greater numbers of VoD users in Africa. »

« We are seing a healthy, agressive competition between Samsung and its competitors across Africa. This should bring mobile device’s prices down pretty soon and increase mobile TV usage. Tablets are in Mauritius for less than USD100; In Senegal Huawei just landed with affordable smartphones and tablets. We are seeing more Africans watching TV and video on their hand-held devices using 3G, Wifi and soon 4G/LTE. The other positive factor is the availability of mobile payment across most African countries» adds Enrico Chiesa.

Balancing Act believes that the VoD opportunity for African filmakers is important: first, African producers need to reference their productions on VoD platforms in order to be ready for the next 5 years’ growth in online video usage. Second, the Buni-AFTV alliance means that they have a new legal distribution channel at their disposal to get on-going revenues for their content. Third, this complementary alliance means that producers can meet the Buni-AFTV teams in several places across the globe.

The majority of cable- and telco-based television providers in the West and Asia offer both VOD streaming, including pay-per-view and free content but Africa is an exception: except for Zuku Wananchi, DStv MultiChoice and a few more, the large majority of telecoms operators in Africa have not yet invested in VoD services due to the lack of bandwidth or innovation.

The impact on local African telecoms operators is clear: in the years to come they will need to re-engineer their data models and invest in infrastructure to get a share of the paid VoD segment. The business model for VoD is hybrid: free video access paid by advertising, paid videos on a one off transaction or on a subscription-basis, or a mix of both. The obvious path for telecoms players is to partner with people who know the audiovisual market, i.e. VoD platforms and AV content distributors.

Video briefings on this topic:

In English:
African audiovisual market: trends in 2012 and strategy in 2013 - by Enrico Chiesa - Africafilms.dv

In French:
Marché audio-visuel en Afrique: tendances 2012 et projets d' Africafilms.tv en 2013

Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a curated film and music mobile platform that helps mobile users find the films and music videos they want

Also videos with Africa’s music platforms:

Jesse Oguntimehin on the beta phase launch of African mobile music platform Spinlet

Yoel Kenan, Africori (B2B platform) on the African music market, local talent, killing choruses and mobile digital platform

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