Pan African TV Channel VoxAfrica has a big hit with The VoiceAfrique and will launch a live streaming channel

15 June 2018

Top Story

Being a Pan-African free-to-air channel is tough and takes a lot of time and investment. Based in London, VoxAfrica started broadcasting in May 2008 and ten years later it still here and has over that time widened its audience base. At the recent Afrobytes event in Paris at the beginning of the month Russell Southwood spoke to Sora Yago-Boli, Director of Finance and Operations, VoxAfrica.

Sora Yego-Boli started at VoxAfrica in 2014 after a period of being consultant for the channel. VoxAfrica itself is bilingual, free-to-air, Pan-African TV station, available on both satellite (it’s on Canal +, Gotv, Zuku and Star Times) and DTT platforms, also with a live stream that will be launched soon. It is also about to launch its own You Tube channel. The last time we covered VoxAfrica was in 2010 and audiences have certainly grown since then:

It has signed a string of distribution deals that will go live in September 2018 including: Cari TV, an IPTV via IP, Cable, OTT app targeting the Caribbean diaspora in America; ISD Africa, based in Nigeria, which is a mobile service with its TV Now app available on both android and IOS (free content has attracted 76,000 subscriber so far); Discover Digital International, an on-demand service based in South Africa which supply sub-Saharan Africa; and Space Multimedia based in Abidjan.

It has won African Channel of the Year at the African Pride Awards in 2017 for the second time running:”Viewers have to vote for it and it shows that VoxAfrica gets more audience than all of its competitors”.

So what’s the audience reach?:”It’s difficult to estimate but in UK alone there is the potential of 12 million households and a potential of 600 million households globally given our distribution network in the USA”. As ever with African TV channels, data is hard to come by but various pieces of research give a glimpse of its scale. Past market research shows that it is watched weekly in Cameroon for example by 16% of the population. Its last BARB survey in the UK ranked it 29th on the Sky Homes platform ahead of BET.

It has three play-outs as its French channel is split between between Europe and Africa and the English channel feed covers both Europe and Africa. In programming terms, there are strong differences between the French and English channels.

“The French channels are 70% current affairs with news every hour, talk shows and debates. There is also an entertainment element with Hollywood and Nollywood films. The English channel is more entertainment than current affairs which is what the market wants, especially in the UK but there are current affairs debates based on headline events”.

“In Africa, the competition is francophone Pay TV operator Canal + which is launching its own channel to compete with us. But it’s the only one we see as a competitor in Africa as there is no other global, bi-lingual channel like ours and that has helped Vox Africa to survive. In the UK, it’s (iroko TV-owned) ROK TV which is purely a movie channel. There’s also ABN but not so much as it targets the Ghanaian (diaspora) community. But we’re Pan-African and that’s still our strength”.

As a free-to-air channel the business model is advertising-based. The advertisers are mainly people wanting to be a bridge between the diaspora and Africa:”At the moment we strive for advertising but we're changing the model a bit. We ask advertisers: can we create content for your target audience and then you sponsor it? This gives us fresh content and meets our advertisers’ needs”.

“For example, we’ve done a specific show for a hair products company. The show will have product placements it will give some inputs on the products plus have bumper adverts. We’re also giving new advertisers a free trial product programme and we’ll make it in a way that they will agree to pay in the future. We’ve also partnered in the UK with the NHS and the Terence Higgins Trust to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. This was an initiative with Prince Harry.” At Afrobytes it also announced an agreement to do a show with Afrobytes to give awareness to African start-ups and help them raise funds.

Its “jewel in the crown” is its ownership of the rights to The Voice Afrique format:” We’ve done two seasons of The Voice Afrique and we have the rights to do 5 seasons so we’ll be doing three more seasons”. It likes to promote the show as produced in 65 countries and broadcasting in 180 countries. The judging panel is: Singuila (Congo/CAR); A’salfo (Cote d’Ivoire); Charlotte Dipanda (Cameroon); and Lokua Kanza (Rwanda/DRC). Sponsored by Orange.

According to Cametrie/Mediametrie, there are 11 million viewers per episode in Cameroon alone. The show has had 23 million views on You Tube and reached 45 million people with the hashtag #TheVoiceAfrique. The audience survey shows that it is successfully hitting the 15-34 demographic.

With some dips, the financial turnover has grown year-on-year since 2011:”We will soon breakeven after an overall restructuring we carried out in January 2018”.

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