Gary Rathbone announces new TV sports programmes aimed at African FTA broadcasters

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Gary Rathbone is launching a range of new TV sports programmes aimed at African Free To Air broadcasters. SuperSport’s  former Head of Africa he resigned from the position back in June 2012. SuperSport is a South African group of television channels owned by Multichoice and carried on the DStv satellite Platform across Africa.

Since then, Gary has been preparing to launch a package of sports shows that will enable FTA broadcasters in Africa to improve their sports coverage of both African and international sport. Balancing Act’s Broadcast Analayst Sylvain Beletre interviewed Gary on his new venture.

Q. Tell us more about your African sport programmes?

A. I am developing the Sports News Africa project to produce a range of shows around sport in Africa and international sport from an African perspective. These programs will ultimately form the core of an African sports news channel. However, I feel it is important to get something to market sooner rather than later, which is why we are reaching out to African broadcasters by launching a series of shorter programs focused on specific aspects of sport that would be of interest to viewers in Africa.

We are starting with the launch of a 'mini show', which we think would be of interest to both sponsors looking to reach audiences in Africa and African broadcasters who would be keen to include this in their existing newscasts or sports programming.

This first programme is called « Sports News Africa's Euro Football Focus », a 5 minute weekly preview of the upcoming major fixtures from the key European leagues: It will feature coverage from pre-match press conferences of the big matches in European football.

It will have a focus on the major games of the weekend with comments and analysis from players, ex-players and journalists on the game. We will also include a short focus on an African player starring in Europe. A weekly 5 minute stand-alone version of the star African player interviewed will be also available.

Q. What will be the programme’s frequency and language?

A. The piece will be delivered every Friday morning and would be 'rights-cleared' for Africa. Although initially available in English and French, we can also tailor the English voice-overs to reflect regional differences such as East African English, Southern African English or West African English, depending on where the broadcaster taking the piece is situated. We feel it is important that programming for African audiences should reflect the complexities of the continent and move away from a 'one size fits all' approach to viewers we so often see. We can also deliver the programme without the voice-over, just with the script, to enable a broadcaster to use the voice of their own presenter instead, in order to integrate the Euro Football Focus insert within their existing programming more completely.

Voice-over can also be added in French, Arabic, Swahili, Portuguese and in a vernacular language depending on the TV channel’s audience.

Q. Would you have a pilot for potential buyers?

A. The pilot is ready for viewing on the TouchSky Media website here and the show will be available to broadcasters from Friday 10 May 2013.

We will follow this up with a similar show focusing on African football that will be aimed at both African broadcasters and broadcasters outside of Africa reaching the African diaspora.

Q. Will you produce the programme yourself?

A. Yes, we have a production set-up in London. We have already developed a strong network of reporters across Europe and Africa but we are open to talking to more local journalists who have a good understanding of sport in Africa.

Q.How will you deliver the programmes across Africa?

A.We will use the usual technologies: Broadband Internet and FTP download in HD and satellite transmission.

Q. What inspired you to launch this programme?

A. I have 16 years of experience developing and producing African sports content and I have been the head of Africa for SuperSport for the past 4 years. I'd like to think that's given me a good view of our continent, where the media spaces are and how these spaces can best be filled through sport. I also have a good network of experts in the field and lot's of experience working in sport and media in Africa from the ground up. I guess that very few people have these cards in hand, so I felt it was time to take advantage of that.

And the one thing I have noticed is that free to air broadcasters have a need for more content related to African sports and world sport from an African perspective. The audience potential for this is massive.

Q. How will you make your content exciting for buyers and audiences?

A. We will need to keep close to what’s happening in Africa and in Europe and make it interesting from the African viewer's perspective. We will also engage our viewers on a number of different media levels, not just through television. But the real value is that our programming will reconnect the African stars who feature at the highest levels of international sport with African audiences back home, as well as helping African sports fans keep in touch with sport happening on their own continent.

Q.What are your next steps today?

A.finalising the programme’s pilot, strengthening our network and getting funds to develop our production facilities and content further. We also need to start marketing our programs to make African broadcasters and sponsors fully aware of what we are offering here.

Meet Gary at his London office, at the annual ‘Broadcast, Film & Music Africa’ (BFMA) event in Nairobi hosted by AITEC Africa and at Discop Africa in South Africa. Contact Gary on his Twitter feed @thegaryrathbone.

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