Diasporas represent big opportunity for African TV broadcasters and film-makers

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The African diaspora is one of the keys to changing the financial circumstances of both African TV and film. It represents a niche audience that will pay hard currency for content from “back home” and diaspora content often leaks out into the host society. Witness the trajectory of reggae and Bollywood out of diaspora communities. Sylvain Beletre looks at the scale and potential of this opportunity and gets insights from to Pierre Gaillardon, Director of Audience Studies at Qualiquanti in Paris.

There are two African diasporas; the first one are those Africans who were taken to be slaves at the beginning of the 16th century and second one are those diasporas that have grown since the end of the second world war. The first of these diasporas are now Black Brazilians and Afro-Americans and largely see themselves as citizens of the country they live in. Whilst they often identify with Africa in a general, abstract sense, this rarely translates into a desire for detailed information about a continent most have no direct familiarity with.

So it is the second diaspora that in many ways is more promising as a market for African TV and film. For example, there are 2.2 million Moroccans living in Europe in 2007 and several hundred thousand Nigerians living in the USA in the same year. No doubt these numbers have increased since these survey estimates were put together. More Cap Verdeans live outside of Cape Verde than in it, including half a million living in the USA. Although ethnicity statistics are prohibited in Germany, the NGO Black People in Germany Initiative estimates that there are 500,000 Black Germans. There are endless definitional questions and not much of the data is very detailed.

This post second world war diasporas maintain strong links with their homeland. Many travel to and from their homeland a couple of times a year and want to keep in touch with things like news, culture (music and films) and sport. For example, a large part of the continent’s news website traffic is driven by the diaspora and although it is declining as an overall proportion as local internet use grows, it remains a significant element, demonstrating the desire diasporas have to keep up with what is going on back home.

Perhaps two of the strongest demonstration of this diaspora effect are the success of Thema’s Le Bouquet Africain and the recent releases by Odeon Cinemas of Nollywood movies. Thema’s Le Bouquet Africain is now available with ALL ADSL/cable operators in France with recent signing with Dartybox for the inclusion of the African Bouquet Premium TV in its offer for 9.99 € / month but free until the end of November.

The thirteen channels available include: CRTV, STV and Canal2, Cameroon; ORTB, Benin; ORTM, Mali; RTB, Burkina Faso; RTI 1, Côte d’Ivoire; RTNC, DRC; RTS and 2STV, Senegal; Télé Congo, Congo Brazzaville; RTG, Guinea; and Africable TV (pan-African but mainly West Africa). Across several operators, the bouquet currently has 115,000 subscribers.

In its forthcoming African Broadcast and Film Markets report, Balancing Act has identified more than 20 major African TV channels widely available outside of Africa. This number has gone up a great deal with more African TV channels now available live-streamed web TV or as single programmes like news.

Sylvain Béletre, editor at Balancing Act talked to Pierre Gaillardon, Director of Audience Studies at Qualiquanti in Paris. Gaillardon had a number of insights into diaspora content:

1) Diasporas are drivers of content: The African diaspora is not only a new audience to be targeted with specialized content, it is also a driver of creative content. For example, the diaspora brings a new point of view to both the European Football Championships and the CAN. Members of the diaspora provide their insights into music and other types of arts in Western media. To some extent, the journalistic and artistic diaspora is a new and rich contributor to media outside of the African continent. It took time in France but for a few years now, journalists from the diaspora at TV5Monde, Africa no. 1, Canal+, France TV, RFI and France O have become a distinctive voice in the host country’s media.

2) The diasporas are hungry for both news and cultural content:  African diasporas are consuming DVDs, music videos and are willing to subscribe to African TV and radio channel packages with SVOD (via Thema TV) or VOD options. They want to stay in touch with both the politics and culture of their home countries.

The next step is probably to create content specifically designed for the African diaspora in addition to imported content. At a larger scale, we are starting to witness the emergence of African “diaspora-centric” and not just “roots centric” content. MTA Productions’ comedy sitcom Meet The Adebanjos about a Nigerian family living in London’s “Little Lagos”, Peckham, came out of the host country Britain and is aimed in three directions: diaspora audiences in the UK, the wider UK audience and audiences in Africa.

 3) The shift to buying full programmes from Africa: In the USA, in Canada, in France, in the UK and more recently in Belgium, there has been a recent shift in television from simply including African-related programmes - e.g. sequences of African music clips, special cycles on African movies, chronicles of African news - to importing full television channel signals directly transmitting from Africa. This includes several pan-African TV channels, national TV channels, TV5 Africa, ‘le bouquet Africain’ now present in France and Belgium, and distribution of CAN matches outside the African continent.

The full section around which this story is based can be found in the second edition of African Broadcast and Film Markets that Balancing Act will publish in January 2012:

This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

Bayo Adebayi, CEO, EStars TV on its joint venture with Star Times in Nigeria

Shuaib Nda Adama, Executive Director, NTA on the digital broadcast transition in Nigeria

Lippe Oosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

Documentary maker Ingrid Martens on her new doc Africa Shafted Under One Roof

What broadcasters need to know about TV White Spaces
Henk Kleynhans, Chair of WAPA on TV White Spaces proposals in South Africa

Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco on the TV White Spaces Workshop

Watch the interview of the RTS’ representative discussing tomorrow’s radio (in French) here

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