Africa comes to France - New TV bouquets targeted at diaspora

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Just when it seemed that in terms of television programme sales it was all a one-way street, a French distributor, Thema, has reversed the flow by creating a bouquet of francophone African channels that it has launched through several broadband companies, most recently this month with Free. Russell Southwood spoke to Francois Thiellet, CEO of Thema.

Thiellet is the first to confess that the idea for an African bouquet in France was not an original one:”The idea came from someone else. I read in a newspaper in France that a Chinese bouquet was going to be launched and I thought to myself I can do that for French-speaking Africa with a channel aimed at the diaspora. There has been a massive development of ADSL networks in France and these are the key networks used by foreigners and diaspora subscribers.” He also knew that most African programmes cannot easily be received from Africa and that there was no rights clearance for most programmes.

The content of the bouquets launched on Free give some idea of the range of content on offer. The African bouquet “Premium”, composed of 9 channels, proposes 2 channels from Senegal, RTS and 2sTV, 3 channels from Cameroun, CRTV, STV2 and Channel 2, the public channel of Ivory Coast RTI, the public channel of Mali ORTM, the public channel of Congo, Tele Congo and finally the Pan-African channel Africable. This new bouquet will be free until the end of May for all Free subscribers, and then accessible for the price of €9.99 per month.

The African bouquet “Classic”, composed of 7 channels, proposes 2 chains of the Coast of Ivory, public channel RTI and the private channel general practitioner Tam Tam TV, 2 channels from Gabon - RTN and the RTG1 - 1 private channel of entertainment from Senegal Walfadjri, MetroTV, a channel from Ghana and ORTB, a channel from Burkina Faso. This new bouquet of 7 chains will be free until the end of May for all Free subscribers, and then accessible for the price of €4.99 per month.

Free will also offer 4 other African channels including 3 as part of the standard subscription: - Vox Africa, a Pan-African channel. - Africa 24, the 1st global information channel on Africa broadcasting 24/24h. - Hi TV, the Nigerian channel of entertainment and cinema (Nollywood). - Channel News Information, the first private continuous information channel on Africa.

The channels initial launch was in October last year but it also wants to add TV Orange to its portfolio soon and Numericable in June. According to Thiellet:”There is a total potential for around 50,000 subscribers by the end of this year. There is a diaspora of 1 million people of Sub-Saharan origin.” Interestingly, there is also an Arab diaspora channel called Arabesque from ART.

Thiellet says:”We want to first consolidate in France, then go to Belgium, Switzerland, followed by Spain, Germany and Italy. Then the big question is whether to go to the USA. There have been some talks but we want to get it right in Europe.” Thiellet is not sure how the English-speaking Nollywood channel will work but “wants to see what will happen.” The channel is based on the rights for two Nollywood libraries, i-Nolly and Trend Nolly. Other ideas to extend the service are in the pipeline so watch this space.