There is life after football – CAfrica rolls out the NBA across the continent

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It would be easy to think that the only sport of interest to Africans was football. It grabs all the attention and the largest slice of the programme rights money spent on sport to be shown in Africa. But African television channels are beginning to realise that they can’t all end up with the key football rights so developing other sports programming may be a smart move. Russell Southwood talked to CAfrica’s Managing Director Cathy Fogler about its ambition to deliver “premium sports programs through a formal network of free-to-air broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa.”

CAfrica was launched by a trio of seasoned industry professionals. Rob and Cathy Fogler and Rwandan Eugene Nyagahene. Bob Fogler had worked with Eugene Nyagahene on venture capital for SMEs in Rwanda and both of the Foglers have a background in broadcast in the USA. Eugene Nyagahene was the founder of the Tele10 Pay TV group in francophone Africa. As Cathy Fogler told us:”The three of us were discussing the TV landscape in Africa and this led to us forming the company.”

CAfrica distributes its sports content to Free-To-Air TV stations across Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) and it is currently shown in 21 countries:”When we select a station, there are a few factors we look at including: the reach and quality of their broadcast signal; their relationship with their audiences; and how they promote the content we give them. But the overriding factor is the professionalism of the broadcaster.”

Currently CAfrica has multi-year agreements with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAFR. It broadcasts the top game played in the NBA every week, weekly highlights from other games and the All Star Weekend. In terms of the IAAF, broadcasts the Diamond League which is a showcase for top athletes. It is looking to acquire other sports rights but is understandably cagey about its next move:”We’re looking at other things but I can’t be specific at the moment. We’re in discussion with the rights holders for all the major sports.”

CAfrica does not just deliver the programmes:”We produce the programmes and work with IMG in London to produce both English and French commentary. Our affiliates can choose either. What marks out what we deliver is the quality of production.”

Specific audience data is difficult to get in Africa but it airs three programmes a week during sports primetime in 21 of the major country markets during sports prime time. Fogler has a rough “thumb-suck” in the absence of broadcaster research:”Our territory is Sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa and it covers 600 million people. On average, there is a 20% TV household penetration. In addition, up to 50% of those people might be watching television outside of the home. This gives our programmes a reach of around 300 million people.”

So what’s the business model?:”I can’t discuss the full business model but there are parts that are already clear. CAfrica provides programmes to broadcast affiliates on reasonable terms. In terms of ad revenues, we target the international, multinational corporations and the affiliate broadcast partner sells to local advertisers. We provide advertisers with a unique way of talking to Africa’s middle class consumers across the continent.”

The NBA is also putting its weight behind promoting basketball on the continent. It has opened a Johannesburg office to have a presence on the continent and to grow the game there. It is creating grassroots basketball programming across the continent. As with the Premier League, the NBA has attracted African players. There are now over 20 of them in the NBA, the most famous of which is Tanzanian Hasheem Thabeet who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. He did not begin to play basketball until the age of 15, when he began to watch pickup games in Tanzania.

News announcement: This week on Balancing Act’s new Web TV Channel – Nollywood and FESPACO 2011

Do not miss our Web TV Channel which highlights recent interviews with top African TV and Radio personalities. There are interviews in both English and French. In particular look out for in English, Matthew Brown on Changing Nollywood Business Models. Matthew is a PhD student from University of Wisconsin who’s just come from a year in Nigeria researching the topic. In French, we have the FESPACO 2011 press conference in Paris which gives details of this upcoming biennial festival in Ouegadougou. Click here:

Workshop at DISCOP

Differentiate your TV channel – Standing out from the competition. The TV stations that will make their mark in 2011 and succeed in gaining market share will be those that build loyalty through the people, programmes and feel of their TV channel. The workshop will focus on all aspects of differentiating your TV channel, primarily addressing: Channel attitude and personality, Content (local and exclusive); Programming (overall structure and pieces); and brand (content, personalities and marketing). Led by Russell Southwood, CEO, Balancing Act with panel speakers including Cathy Fogler, Managing Director, CAfrica and Yaa Newman of TV Africa. Date, time and Place: 6.30 pm, Wednesday 9 February, La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra.