Three year old TV content market DISCOP back in Nairobi in September plus African Sports Rights Market

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Africa’s TV content market DISCOP is coming back to Nairobi in September. Since 2008, it has not only made it easier for African TV buyers to do deals for content but has become an international meeting point for those involved in the development of the industry. Before Discop launched in Africa, broadcasters on the continent had limited options to buy TV content. Sithengi closed in 2006, leaving only MIP-TV and the small MICA market held during Fespaco. Balancing Act’s Sylvain Béletre spoke to Regional Manager for Africa Cherise Barsell from the event’s organiser Basic Lead before she left at the end of July to review progress to date.

Q: What does the Sub-Saharan African audiovisual market look like?

A: 47 Sub-Saharan African countries have 42 million TV households, the world’s fastest growing number of pay-TV subscribers, 310 million mobile subscribers and 45 million Internet users. The audiovisual industry is seeing incredible growth- it’s a very dynamic emerging market indeed!

Q: How has Discop Africa's attendance evolved over the past three years?

A: For our inaugural event, we ensured buyers would be present by covering the travel expenses for many African broadcasters – and we were successful with 163 buyers in total. In order to focus on more serious buyer, we limited our travel offers. The following three editions attracted fewer buyers - between 105 and 125 - but sellers noticed that buyers who made it were more serious about acquiring content. They had made a personal investment to come and that showed in their meetings.

Our last edition in Accra - February 2011 - attracted 171 buyers, our highest turnout yet, and proof that Discop has established itself as a must-attend event for the TV industry. Buyers present included programming, acquisitions and co-production executives from 99 Sub-Saharan African TV Stations and Pay-TV platforms.

The feedback we got is that meeting exchanges improved in quality and have prompted more long term deals and relationships. We succeeded in attracting all major US Studios, Latin America’s top Telenovelas suppliers, TV formats licensors, packaged TV channels and 14 African companies were amongst the 88 international vendors exhibiting at the last Discop Accra.

We've built the largest TV trade event focused on the African region. Today, 95% of Sub-Saharan African broadcasters and pay-TV operators attending Discop markets never or seldom attend any other major international television content market. If you are interested in entering the African market, Discop is the place to be.

Q: What were your most successful initiatives over those events?

A: Our main objective and central achievements has been creating a platform for African broadcasters to access content- which didn’t exist when we entered the market. We have also taken the time to listen to our clients’ needs and to address gaps we have seen in the industry. For example, we have adapted our market to provide African producers’ access to both the domestic and international marketplace, with an understanding that there is a growing demand from broadcasters looking for quality African content. We are also seeing more niche channels and TV programmes showcasing Africa across Europe, Asia and North America and these channels are able to access programming at Discop.

To further support producers, we have designed Discopro, a full-day conference and pitching session to foster partnerships between African broadcasters, producers, and international parties interested in co-production opportunities.

We also set up sessions to highlight major African TV industry issues and opportunities, such as digitalization, sports content, channel branding, multi-platform distribution, regulation, and educational content.

Furthermore, we offer international distributors a chance to learn about the region by offering country focus sessions with leading broadcasters in a different dynamic African country each edition. Our upcoming edition will welcome TV channels and platforms from Uganda.

Q: Has the African TV market shifted since 2009?

A: It has changed a lot in some countries. We have witnessed the arrival of new entrants, both in the paid and FTA space. Back in 2009, pay-TV challengers Canal + and DSTV essentially had a market monopoly. This has changed with the launch of Smart TV, Star TV, Zuku TV, Top TV and many more. Attracted by the noise of opportunities, more African and foreign investors and content suppliers - Chinese, European, American - have put money in the African TV industry. We have also seen new international bouquets offering African content. Discop has contributed to making the African TV market more visible and has helped provide more structure by creating an exchange between Africans. TV channels on the continent are also becoming more competitive and more proactive to adapt to market changes and growth.

Q: Over the last three years, have you noticed changes in the way buyers and sellers do business?

A: Buyers and sellers who attended our events have become more prepared and more professional. Successful sellers now prepare in advance to sign on the spot and adjust their pricing to accommodate the African market. While a growing percentage of channels are starting to pay closer to international rates, buyers also have more negotiation room with access to more distributors. Most buyers and sellers now know that Basic Lead provides advanced services to help match buyers and sellers depending on their content needs and offerings, and they are taking advantage of these services. Sellers who are serious about supplying large or expensive content catalogues in Africa also understand that it takes time to build relationships and follow up on deals. Many of these relationships have been created and reinforced at Discop.

Q: What would you advise buyers and sellers planning to attend your upcoming events?

A: Basic Lead provides a number of services for exhibiting sellers and buyers so that they can essentially show up at our market knowing what they have to sell and buy and we will take care of the meetings for them. To optimize these meetings, its important to make contact beforehand, make sure buyers are familiar with your content, and gauge interest. Discop participants have access to online meeting services with buyer and seller search engines six weeks in advance of the market with support from our multilingual team of operators.

It also helps to stay up-to-date with the African audiovisual industry. Balancing Act and Discop both provide our clients with industry resources. Discop also offers conference sessions that can improve your business or provide you with new contacts.

Q: So give us a preview of what’s happening at the next DISCOP

A: The Discop Nairobi program will include the second edition of the Discopro training and pitching program dedicated to trans-cultural co-production opportunities (Tuesday 6 September 2011) and the “African Sports Rights Market” Focus Group, a prelude to a new and independent networking initiative designed to support funding, production and distribution of sports television content produced in Africa (Thursday 8 September). We will also announce other major initiatives in 2012 to support market growth, but my lips are sealed on the details for now.

Q: When is the next Discop Africa taking place?

A: Discop Nairobi will take place from Wednesday 7 to Friday 9 September 2011 at the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

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