Trace Group will run largest global music talent contest in Africa in partnership with Airtel – Target? Two million entrants

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MTG bought the Trace Group in early 2014 and both have ambitious plans for growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Russell Southwood spoke to the CEO of the Trace Group and asked him what he has planned for 2015.

The Swedish media group MTG, which has free-to-air, pay TV and radio assets in its portfolio, bought the Trace group in March this year. It is pinning a significant part of its corporate expansion strategy on getting growth in Africa. It opened free-to-air Viasat One in 2008: it says it now has a 24% market share of its target audience group. Its Tanzanian station TV1 is focused on a broad, slightly female skewed, target audience of 15-49 year olds. It’s also looking to either acquire or open new free-to-air stations in Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.

Trace fits right into this African growth strategy. At the time of the sale, it announced that it has generated 23% compound annual net sales growth over the five years to the end of 2013 and reported preliminary net sales of EUR 19.3 million for the full year 2013. Of these growing revenues, almost half come from Africa and other emerging markets. Indeed Africa is seen as so important to its corporate strategy that it relocated its head office to Johannesburg.

The company had 37 million paying subscribers as at the end of December 2013, up from 27 million at the end of 2012, and also generates a growing proportion of its sales from advertising, events, content and brand licensing.

CEO Olivier Laouchez describes it as a “medium-sized company with a global footprint.” It runs 18 different channels – almost entirely focused on music and sport – that are available on 42 different satellites.

I spoke to him last month about the company’s plans for 2015 and he told me about some of the ambitious things that will happen. These include:

*    A massive Sub-Saharan African music talent completion that it is doing in partnership with mobile operator Airtel. It’s planning what he claims will be the largest global music talent competition with potentially 2 million entrants. If you think that sounds fanciful, it had 220,000 entrants when it ran the event in South Africa with Cell C.

*    When you think of Trace, it’s usually for music and sports TV. But it also owns and operates radio stations, particularly in the Caribbean. In 2015, it will focus on opening radio stations using the music formula that has made its TV channels so successful: a skillful mix of local and international Black music. It has a licence in Cameroon and hopes soon to get one in Cote d’Ivoire and is also targeting Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.

*    It will also be launching its digital strategy because as Laouchez sees it:”It’s key because the new generation…use their smartphones as their universal remote control to access entertainment.” It is deploying its social platform with Senegalese hip-hop artist Akon with a team that will straddle several continents including the USA, Europe and Africa. It will launch in Q 1, 2015:”We want to provide a new generation digital platform.”

Trace is definitely one to watch for three reasons. Firstly, it has got a musical formula that works extremely well: Laouchez talks about how this works in the video clip interview below. Secondly, it seems to understand how to create branded live events at scale but the music talent competition will be a real test of how well this works pan-continentally.Thirdly, it has been able to create a sports channel where the accepted wisdom on the continent is always that this is entirely DStv’s real estate. Its expansion plans will inject some much needed competition and professionalism into many of the key markets.

To hear more about what the Trace group has planned, you can watch CEO Olivier Laouchez in interview on this link.


Digital Content Africa: Balancing Act's web TV channel Smart Monkey TV has launched a new e-letter called Digital Content Africa. On a fortnightly basis, it covers online film, music, publishing and services and applications. We have already produced 27 issues and these can be viewed on this link

Essential reading for those in broadcast or film. If you would like to subscribe, just send an email to with Digital Content Africa in the title line.

Here are some examples of past issues below:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded and that the deal is rotten…Operators not opening mobile channel for Africa’s digital content makers

Africa’s coming digital content generation – Market research from 3.5 countries looks at music, TV and film use

You Tube provides a platform for piloting new TV series: An African City and Al Bernameg light the way

Licensing delays stall Kenya’s “i-Tunes” content platform on a Raspberry Pi but end may be in sight

The Mobile Deal that is keeping Africans from having more music, film and TV on their mobiles

Video Clip Interviews - This week:

Pascal Schmitz, iBiskop on overcoming the three barriers to downloading: bandwidth, price & piracy

Nicole Amarteifio on what's culturally inappropriate or not in You Tube series An African City

Segilola Ogidan and Edith Nwekenta on Mum, Dad, Meet Sam, a Nigerian Romantic-Comedy

Juliet Asante on Mobilefliks rolling out across Africa and her new film Silver Rain

Anthony Abuah on Cape to Cairo, a You Tube debate show for thirty something

Larry Izamoje, Sports Radio Brila FM on launching an online sports TV channel in Nigeria

Yemisi Ilo on Nigeria’s Web TV channel Battabox

Abukar Abba Tahir on Gotel's plans to launch the Al Jazeera of Africa from Abuja

Michael Wanguhu on a TV series that follows Kenya's marathon runners in the USA

Khalid Shamis' film The Colonel's Stray Dogs about the Libyan opposition in exile who went back

Kene Mkparu, Filmhouse on having 25 cinemas in Nigeria by 2019

Director Abey Esho on the trials and tribulations of shooting the web/tv series Festac Town

Ulrich Stark on how broadcasters can make money on social media platform Wezwa