Selling African content for in-flight entertainment – John Parr, Global Eagle on what content works and what gets paid

12 January 2018

Top Story

In TV and film markets as tough as those found in Africa producers need to search out every last cent of secondary income. This week Russell Southwood talks to John Parr, Content Programme Manager – Africa, Global Eagle about kind of content airlines are looking for and what they pay for content.

Global Eagle is the biggest provider of in-flight content and systems and former producer John Parr is responsible for acquiring content for them in Africa. Global Eagle has deals with most airlines flying to and from Africa including: SAA, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Brussels and Air France.

“Guys flying into (and out of) Africa want African content. African audiences are the most conservative consumers of content. As they are a diverse audience, we don’t want anyone saying this is not for me. There’s no sex or swearing but you do want to laugh and to cry”.

One example of a film that did well on airlines was Steve Gukas’ 93 days that starred Bimbo Akintola, Danny Glover and Bimbo Manuel:”It is all about the ebola crisis and how it was stopped in Nigeria. A lot of nurses and doctors died to stop ebola spreading in Nigeria”. He also cites the Nollywood film of last year The Wedding Party that “made good box office”.

Another successful African airline movie was South African Rom-Com Zulu Wedding, set in Johannesburg and Durban:”It was the highest selling (film) on airlines including Singapore, United and Emirates. I’m looking for relevant content all the time. Another good example is Ethiopia. It has a lot of good movies”.

There’s a high level of interest from both producers and distributors:“I have been a producer so I’m sympathetic to producers. I know how difficult it is to sell movies. I’ve made an effort to meet people at markets like DISCOP where I found myself taking meetings from 9-7 every day”.

There’s not enough money to completely finance a film or TV programme and as Parr puts it:”We’re the gravy. We don’t pay a lot of money. We’re another way to make some money”. He sold Keeping Up With The Kardashians to over a dozen airlines and “there were good margins on that.”

As ever, the actual money paid depends on a lot of things. An airline with more routes and flights like Emirates will pay more than say, Air Namibia. There’s also how long the content is shown, which can be anything from two weeks to six months. The bottom line is anywhere between US$400-1,000 per film.

Another factor affecting things is sub-titling:”We have a series of specs we send out but it can be an issue. I have a movie where the sub-titles are too small. I’ve had issues with films from one country where the sub-titles are nonsense. They’re just very bad translations and we can’t use them.” However, in one case he offered to subtitle a film (at a cost of US$700) and gave the film-maker back a sub-titled copy of the film.

It’s also important to give him a “true script as it makes my life easier and I can then sell with confidence (to the airlines).”

Last but not least it’s important to get the sound right:”Sound is often a big problem and I can tell immediately what’s wrong with the sound.”

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