Novavision selling no-dialogue candid camera programmes into Africa


Balancing Act's Sylvain Béletre interviewed Francois-Xavier Poirier, CEO of Novavision, a French production house which specialises in no-dialogue candid camera programmes on its recent foray into the African market

Q: Can you tell us about your business and products?

A: Novavision started from very humble beginnings, like most small enterprises; in 2002, with a bag full of cameras and ideas for a truly international, non-dialogue, family orientated, hidden camera style programming – Zeze Hidden Camera – the type of content that would allow viewers to relax, switch off and just laugh. Since then we have progressed in leaps and bounds; this last year the company has doubled in size and our programmes are now present in 76 countries.

Zeze and his team are still there, but we have diversified slightly: by introducing a more zany, cutting edge element to the Mad Boys Hidden Camera, we have addressed and captured the illusive and important male 13 to 45 target audience; by adapting our candid camera techniques towards children and with children, we have proved to them, through Junior Hidden Camera, that things are not always what they seem and that they can have the last laugh too; our diversification into funny home video clips and extreme sports bloopers (utilizing our tried, tested and proven show format), through our Hilarious Home Video and Extreme Sports shows, we have entered into new markets and provided our broadcasters with something a little different; with the PopCorn TV Xmas show, Zeze and his team conduct their seasonal cappers for the Christmas market.

Q: What are your most popular productions?

A: Our best sellers however, still remain our compilations shows: PopCorn TV ‘World’s Best Comedy Show’ is a compilation of all our shows and with our recently introduced new graphics, should continue to enjoy success and growth throughout the international markets, especially since we now have 200 half hour shows to offer; PopCorn TV ‘Crazy’ Hidden Camera is our other popular compilation show, but for those broadcasters who require solely candid camera gags. This show has proven very popular.

Q: Are your productions easy to adapt across Africa?

A: Our programmes are truly international; no alterations are necessary for immediate broadcast or perhaps a local celebrity voice-over or introduction can be added to personalise it. This is a key aspect – our programmes are flexible.

Q: Who are your key clients?

A: It may sound like a cliché, but all our clients are valued clients, especially in the current economic climate. Our major broadcasters range from NBC Universal & TQS in North America, to Canal+, RTL and Fox here in Europe. TQS for example, has been with us since 2006 and continues to build audience share with the help of our content. Having said this, we have to place everything in context; we could not have expanded so rapidly if we had just concentrated our marketing and sales efforts in the more affluent countries, and we value the opportunities we have had within other regions equally. So far, we have managed to secure many contracts in the In-Flight sector, mobile content and video signage, to name a few. Ideally we would like to have a presence in all countries and, to this end, we will continue to look for partners across all platforms.

Q: Have you secured any major, long-term contracts with African companies?

A: We are pleased to have had a good working relationship with Citizen TV in Kenya for the last year and a half, our PopCorn TV programmes appear to be a hit.

Q: In which African countries do you see the largest potential for pay-TV technologies? Same question for triple/quadruple play?

A: Africa, in broadcasting terms and economically, is still emerging. Obviously the larger and more affluent states hold the highest potential: South Africa, the North African states and Nigeria for example; with opening up of government control over the media and more licenses being awarded. But the question remains the number of and affordability to the end user. The problem for content producers however, is the footprint of the new broadcast territories and the possible conflict in overrunning license territories.

Q: How do you see the market for HD in Africa?

A: HD will eventually become the norm within the world’s largest economies, as they switch off the old analogue transmissions and concentrate on the new widely accepted technology. As a result of this, we are investing accordingly in our content. Africa will eventually have to invest in this technology and we hope that the price of the end user technology will decrease enough for viewers to appreciate it.

Q: How are you addressing security issues? (Piracy etc.)

A: This is a serious problem for any content provider – if we do not receive income from our productions, how can we invest for our future? We have assessed many systems to help us fight the Piracy issue and we are now actively watermarking all our programmes and clips to prevent this issue from becoming a real problem.

Q: What is your view of the African market compared to Europe, the USA or Asia?

A: The primary problem we have is communication; the ability to contact the decision makers through reliable means, by telephone and email. The other problem is money of course, the ability to raise finance for the content.

The first problem we have no control over; if all parties wish to progress, this needs to be addressed. Money is a universal problem at present, no more so than in Africa. We have many possible clients across the continent who have this predicament, but this is an area where We can have influence and can be pro-active in finding a solution. We are currently talking to large advertising agencies, in order to find reliable sponsors for our shows; sponsors who can work with us in the long term, thus reducing the acquisition cost for the broadcaster. If brands want to successfully deliver sponsorship and advertising messages to a receptive audience, there is no better vehicle for this than comedy.

Q: You have attended the first Discop in Africa? What is your opinion about this event compared to other well-known content events?

A: Business is a give and take thing; we are prepared to go that extra mile for all our clients. The Meeting/Follow-up ratio at other content shows, in comparison with Discop 1, is far higher. Being a small company, we have to assess and monitor our expenses and outgoings.

Q: On IPTV, would you consider it as a major opportunity for Africa? Why?

A: When access, communications and economies improve, the continent has huge potential – probably the largest. One only has to look at the Indian sub-continent as an example of this.