DISCOP launches Africa’s first fully-fledged media market in Dakar in February and will offer second event in Nairobi in September

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Another sign of the growing maturity of Africa’s broadcast and markets is the launch of DISCOP 09 Africa in Dakar between 25-27 February. So far it has attracted over 300 participants and looks set to attract more people. No longer will African broadcasters and film companies be the poor country cousins at European and US content markets. They will have their own continental markets to both buy international content and sell their own local content to other African countries and to broadcasters outside the content. Russell Southwood interviewed Patrick Jucaud who heads up Basic Lead who are organising DISCOP.

Q: What are the origins of DISCOP?

It started 20 years ago as a discounted programmes market targeting the ex-republics of the USSR. DISCOP stands for discounted programmes. Eventually our clients asked us to just use the acronym DISCOP because things had moved on. In 2005 we decided to enter into a marketing association with NATPE and we’ve been working together since then, We’re helping Central and Eastern European providers access US programmes and vice-versa.

Q: Who is behind DISCOP?

My company Basic Lead organises trade shows and DISCOP is one of them.

Q: What was the experience of Eastern Europe like in terms of how the market developed?

The first DISCOP we held there had 83 buyers from places that had not yet become countries. At the end of the first day we realised that buyers had never taken part in a trade show before. Barter was the main way of doing business and it was airtime bartering that allowed the market to come into being. Then the commercial stations started going there and they grabbed 90% of the audiences. These people kick-started the market.

As countries became independent, advertisers started to put in advertising. Then our market was no longer Western content providers trying to sell their programmes but Central and Eastern European companies selling to their own peers. When formats were launched in those countries, they started to produce their own content.

The next stage of development was when digital platforms were launched. They looked at the mistakes in more developed markets and set out to learn from those mistakes. Last year’s DISCOP in Central and Eastern Europe was attended by more than 300 people looking for content to deal with the digital transition. The switchover (with the increased number of channels that come with it) created many more thematic channels.

Q: What sparked your interest in Africa?

The demand came from some of our clients. Most of the countries were unknown to our (international) clients. They were making enough money elsewhere with 10-15 clients not to need international syndication.

We identified potential deals for them and set up the pre-organisation of the meetings. In effect, we simplified a complex market for them. Clients now need 10-20 times more clients because TV stations cannot afford the level of fees they used to pay. But they don’t have the level of staff needed to chase small markets but they need the income from them.

So some clients who attended Sithengi (a South African festival and nascent content market now closed) said why don’t you organise a forum focused on pre-arranged meetings. And to do this, we can use both our experience from Central and Eastern Europe in the match-making process and our team’s enthusiasm for new territories.

There are two developments which we believe will help the growth of the market: the proximity of the World Cup (2010) and the digital transition which is beginning to take place on the continent.

Q: How many people will attend the event?

We have 300+ participants registered and there’s still slightly over a month to go. We also know that many of these companies have pre-organised meetings. 135 are buyers, 28 are advertisers registered as buyers and 80 are sellers. So in the next five weeks we expect the number to go up to 350 people and that’s a conservative estimate. We are completely sold out on the exhibition side.

Q: From the buyers’ perspective, what are they looking for?

They are looking for high-quality and different content. Currently content buying is monopolised by a handful of buyers. Most of the TV companies have not been to the major European and US content markets. There are more Pay TV subscribers so more people are becoming familiar with higher quality content. Therefore there needs to be more programmes that will simultaneously meet raised expectations from consumers and advertisers. For in the future, the difference between broadcasters will be based on the quality of content.

Q: From the sellers’ perspective, what are they looking for?

Sellers will need to be creative. Companies will need to look at how they sell sport because it’s a great (market) driver. They need to look at selling telenovelas, formats, blockbuster films and high-quality documentaries. Pretty much everything. We have given as much opportunity as possible to African content producers. The market will only really exist if there is African content to sell. Local content sells better than international content. For example, we’ve got Storm from Nigeria (who produced the African version of The Apprentice), South Africa’s eTV, Agence lmi from Togo, Buldorf from Gabon and Convergence Communications from Cote d’Ivoire. Also MNet will be there with its African films catalogue.

Q: What do you thin the market will look like in 3-5 years time? What will be happening?

Packaged TV channels and digitally delivered channels will take over. This is where it will explode. Audiences are being fragmented and therefore it’s better to put content into themed channels to meet the audience’s needs. Some will use adapted content as happens elsewhere. The growth will be encouraged by low cost set-top boxes and TV sets.

Most advertising expenditure projections for the continent show that it will grow in double digits and more will go towards television.

Q: Will this bring about a transition in programme style and scheduling?

What advertisers will expect from broadcast companies is better audience measurement. This is currently not available in Africa. Broadcasters will need to supply a better view of who their audiences are: everyone will have to do that. They will then realise which programmes sell.

TV has been around for decades in Africa and broadcasters did their best with what they had. But now current broadcasters know what they’re doing in terms of scheduling. Public broadcasters who do not respond will lose their audiences.

Q: I hear that the response to this initial event has been so overwhelming that you’re going to do more.

Our clients have told us that once a year is not enough and we will be running a second event in Nairobi in September. The development of the market justifies it. Our clients want to attend two events a year.

Kenya’s Steadman Group to research who will be watching the 2010 World Cup

Mobile operators who are amongst the largest advertising spenders in Africa have joined others in Project Eyeball, a massive research project to be carried out by The Steadman Group of Kenya to see how many of Africa’s 840 million people will actually watch the 2010 World Cup.

Project Eyeball came out of discussions Steadman Group had with clients who were big media spenders who wanted to be able to get a grip on what level of interest there would be in the 2010 World Cup.

As George Waititu, Managing Director of The Steadman Group told us:”One of their concerns was the lack of good data to guide media investors. In Europe, it’s always pretty clear what numbers advertisers will be buying. But in Africa, we know not all 840 million people will watch and listen so we need to work out who will.”

Project Eyeball will use face-to-face interviews across 40 countries. Most will have a sampling size of 2,000 people per country but larger countries like Nigeria will have a 4,000 sample. After the initial interviews, researchers will follow up to validate the results.

At present it costs US$5,000 per country to become a syndicate member and get the results but it’s hoping to halve that cost if it gets more syndicate members. Currently, the syndicate includes telcoms companies, larger broadcasters, financial institutions and beverage companies.