Abidjan to become Francophone TV production Hot Spot as market opens up – BeBlack TV wants to raise profile of African artists
In June 2015 the broadcast market will be opened to new players. Abidjan is making a comeback as the business hub for Francophone Africa and looks set to become a very active TV production hub. Russell Southwood spoke to the Sales Manager, BeBlack TV about this Ivorian produced TV channel and its Pan-African ambitions.
Since the beginning of broadcasting in Cote d’Ivoire, there has only been one Government-run channel RTI. That’s all about to change come June when the process of the digital transition in broadcasting will see the broadcast space opened up to new, private operators.
Rumour has it that Trace TV is already recruiting technical staff and a TV company from another francophone African country will be among the first applicants.
Alongside this, Africa’s TV market DISCOP is running a DISCOP Express event in Abidjan from the 2nd-4th June, which will provide a focus on the country and its soon to be established private sector. See here.
Below the radar, Abidjan seems to have a lot of production talent. Among the companies based here is Gondwana City Productions, which produces francophone TV comedy series and live events with 3 comedians who are popular across francophone Africa.
But the biggest development has been the launch of BeBlack TV, an ambitious channel that seeks to offer African culture a much higher profile globally. According to Sales Manager, Hypolithe Bouabre the idea came from “wanting to have a channel where African culture was well explained because it’s a global culture”. There’s strong desire to give African artists greater visibility.
And if you think that sounds a bit like Trace TV, it does but the new channel – although it has started with a lot of music content, also covers Black film, fashion and African food. Specifically, it has things like entertainment magazine programmes and reality TV shows. The intention is to reduce the music content over time:”We want to respect the cultural diversity of the continent so we are buying content from many countries.”
Launched in December 2013, it is currently available on channel 61 on Canal+. Long-term, the company wants to look at broadening its audience by looking at other platforms, including things like the new, free-to-air digital platform. It’s also in discussions with a mobile operator to get VoD distribution. In the longer term, it would like to move to three channels: BeBlack Classique (for France); BeBlack Caribbean and BeBlack Afrique. They are also at the very early stages of discussions with DStv about doing an Anglophone version. It will be carrying out a marketing campaign in June with road-shows and concerts.
So what’s the business model?:”It’s an advertising business model. We want to reach the maximum number of people and explore a range of opportunities.”
The man behind this new TV channel is Ivorian music producer David Monsoh who is a legend in the francophone music scene. There is a striking parallel with Senegalese musician Youssou D’Dour who has seemed to pivot effortlessly from music performer to media mogul.
Monsoh studied in Paris and while a student handled the management of Nyaka Bell’s Visa Nayanka album which won an African Music Award. He then moved into producing artists having his first success with footballer Gadzhi Celi in 1994. This opened the way to a job at French record distribution company Sonodisc with a brief to find new talent from the African continent for international markets, where he also worked as an executive producer. And from there his name is part of the story of many of the most successful francophone music artists. So is the new project too big for him to swallow? He is quoted as saying:”I love new challenges and I hate to lose.”
In overall business terms, Abidjan is staging a comeback after the bad years of the civil war. It has much going for it: Ivorians are welcoming, the electricity stays on and whilst there is traffic, it’s nothing like Dakar. So it may yet become a TV production “hot spot” for francophone Africa.
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