BBC Worldwide’s investment in South African production company Rapid Blue – “A focus of theirs is to do more local productions in Africa driven by Africans.”

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The commercial arm of the British public broadcaster, BBC Worldwide has – after a long search – bought into South African production company Rapid Blue. Russell Southwood spoke to him this week about what the deal means.

From the BBC Worldwide side, the deal has been driven by them identifying Africa as a key market. It conducted research on how to increase their presence on the continent “in a constructive way”. It looked across the continent at a range of companies and after an 8 month dating period decided to go with Rapid Blue.

Rapid Blue is the South Africa-based production company that makes regional versions of Dragon’s Den, Got Talent and X Factor and BBC series Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off. Established in 1993, Rapid Blue is the top formats producer in Africa, making the local versions of a slew of well-known international shows.

“As demand for local content increases across Africa, BBC Worldwide and Rapid Blue are extremely proud to partner and explore the growing opportunities in the market,” said Grant Welland, executive VP, central and east Europe, Middle East and Africa, BBC Worldwide.

He added: “With BBC Worldwide’s enviable formats catalogue and our combined knowledge and expertise, this agreement will enable us to provide content solutions for broadcasters across the continent, positioning us as the destination for quality television production in Africa.”

“A focus of theirs is to do more local productions in Africa driven by Africans. There’s also an appetite to carry more local (African) productions on their own channels.”

BBC Worldwide was drawn to Rapid Blue by the consistent good quality of its productions and its ability to produce programming across the continent, including its local presence in African countries. It also has a mix of skills on its team stretching from production and creative to media experts.

So what might the content BBC Worldwide might take back into the UK:”There’s a definite interest in some of our non-scripted shows and we approach show development from a slightly different perspective, coming up with fresh ideas”.

“On the scripted side there are 14 drama projects in development with two at the early stages of agreement. There’s a trend locally for colloquial dramas, things like the Scandi and German shows that have been so popular. Are there African stories that might resonate?”

So should we watch out for police dramas?”We do have a police drama but nothing heavier or darker. There’s everything including a romantic music drama, a young female comedy through to a male drama in the boxing world.”
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